PREVIEW: Four new teams set to liven up Lotto NRFL Women’s Championship

By Joan Grey

A new-look Lotto NRFL Women’s Championship roars into life on Sunday, with half of its eight teams new to the competition.

The teams will contest the Championship title over 21 rounds, chasing subsequent promotion to the Lotto NRFL Women’s Premiership.

The four teams new to the competition are Northern Rovers (relegated from the Premiership), Melville United (promoted from the WaiBOP W-League), Birkenhead United (winners of last year’s NRF Women’s Conference) and a new Bay of Plenty entity, FC Tauranga Moana.

Northern Rovers play host to Franklin United at McFetridge Park.

Britney Cunningham-Lee holds off two Eastern Suburbs defenders while in action for Ellerslie last season. Photo: Jackie Tran Van / Phototek.

Franklin have added firepower by signing last season’s Women’s Premiership top goalscorer Britney Cunningham-Lee.

Cunningham-Lee (23) has previously played for Papakura City and Hamilton Wanderers.

Central United travel south to face Manukau United at Walter Massey Park, while league newcomers Birkenhead United welcome Onehunga Sports, last year’s Championship runners-up.

Birkenhead United … winners of the 2023 NRF Women’s Conference.

Newly-formed Tauranga Moana make their Championship debut against Melville United who won promotion after beating Birkenhead United in a play-off last September.

Tauranga Moana is the product of a new partnership between last year’s Women’s Championship teams, Otumoetai and Tauranga City, who have joined forces with neighbours Papamoa FC.

The Bay of Plenty combination aims to strengthen women’s football in the Bay of Plenty region and ultimately gain promotion into the Women’s Premiership.

READ MORE: Groundbreaking partnership aims to boost female football in Bay of Plenty >>>>

The merging of the Bay of Plenty teams opened a vacancy in the Championship for Birkenhead United who won the NRF Women’s Conference last season but lost the promotion play-off to Melville.

READ MORE: Birkenhead United to join next season’s Lotto NRFL Women’s Championship >>>>

Melville United … won the promotion play-off against Birkenhead United at Mangere Centre Park last September. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

WaiBOP W-league champions Melville United romped through their competition in 2023, and then franked their form with their 3-1 play-off win against Birkenhead.

READ MORE: Melville United win promotion to Lotto NRFL Women’s Championship >>>>

How they finished last year


Games to be played on Sunday April 7, 2024

FC Tauranga Moana v Melville United
Links Ave, Mt Maunganui, 1pm

Manukau United v Central United
Walter Massey Park, Mangere East, 1pm

Northern Rovers v Franklin United
McFetridge Park, Glenfield, 1pm

Birkenhead United v Onehunga Sports
Shepherds Park, Birkenhead, 1pm

Joan Grey

Friends of Football writer Joan Grey loves playing and writing about football.

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