'I just felt comfortable kissing my girlfriend' - female league players at centre of viral after-match kiss photo break silence

The two female rugby league players who were captured kissing after the women's State of Origin match have finally broken their silence on the online reaction to the shared image.

Karina Brown and Vanessa Foliaki were snapped in an embrace after New South Wales beat the Maroons in June - an image the NRL later posted on social media.

Brown and Foliaki said it was a normal reaction for them.

"I live with Vanessa, so I see her every single day and kiss her every single day,” Brown said in an article written for Players Voice

"Seven days without her — me in Queensland camp, her with NSW — was a long time.

"It's funny, because that's just a normal moment for Ness and I, and for our friends and family. I feel really fortunate to have been born in a time where I could do that; be myself and not have to worry about who was watching me. I just felt comfortable kissing my girlfriend.

"Origin is a tough, emotional time for us. We’re both passionate about our states and we take it very seriously. I was Queensland captain this year.

"To barely speak for a whole week, to have nearly a hatred for each other — purely in terms of the state we’re playing for — it takes a toll.

"So, to finally see her afterwards was very emotional. I was really proud of her achievement, winning the first official women’s State of Origin game, even though it came at my side’s expense. It’s a funny set of feelings to process."

There was mostly positive responses on social media to the image but the NRL was quick to shut down people who viewed it negatively.

"Welcome to 2018 … can’t wait for you to join us!" it wrote to a number of negative fans.

"If we can post a photo of Cooper Cronk and his wife Tara kissing, then we can share a photo of Karina Brown and Ness Foliaki sharing a moment too," the NRL replied to another.

Brown said she was happy the world saw the picture, even with the negative responses.

"I think it was good for the world to see, to show how far we’ve come as a society. Yet also to show that we’ve still got some way to go. Not all the feedback was positive.

"For some people, it’s still a shock. I guess the more we can get it out there, that it’s OK to be who you are, it won’t be a shock anymore. It’ll just be normal. It is normal.

"I look forward to the day where my moment with Vanessa is just a regular post-match photo. And I don’t think we’re far off it."

NSW Blues player Vanessa Foliaki kisses her partner Queensland player Karina Brown after women's State of Origin match.
NSW Blues player Vanessa Foliaki kisses her partner Queensland player Karina Brown after women's State of Origin match.



'They took it up for the crowd': Inspired Kiwis hold their nerve to clinch heart-stopping 26-24 win over Kangaroos

A Joey Manu-inspired New Zealand have brought Australia crashing back to earth with a 26-24 upset in their rugby league Test at Mt Smart Stadium.

The Kangaroos had their 13-game winning streak broken on Saturday and tasted their first Test loss under coach Mal Meninga.

As it happened: Kiwis hold their nerve to beat Kangaroos 26-24 in absolute thriller

After the retirement of a golden generation of players including Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk, Billy Slater and Cameron Smith, the Aussies are facing a rebuild.

Manu upstaged his Sydney Roosters teammate, superstar Latrell Mitchell, scoring one try and setting up another in a rampaging performance, while Shaun Johnson was named man of the match.

"The boys did an amazing job," Kiwis first-time captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak said. "They took it up for the crowd and our country and did our families proud.

"But we're still building. It's only a start. We've got a foundation now."

The Kiwi forwards, led by Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Jesse Bromwich and Martin Taupau, dominated while David Klemmer was the only Aussie forward to make more than 100 metres.

The Australians scored two late tries through Felise Kaufusi and James Tedesco for a tense final two minutes however the scoreline belied the Kiwis' dominance.

"It was always going to be tough playing the Kiwis at home," Australia captain Boyd Cordner said. "We didn't give ourselves much chance but we stuck to it and it was a tight finish. Our ball control was pretty disappointing."

The result will go a long way to restoring the New Zealand public's faith in the Kiwis after a slew of poor results and off-field issues.

It was the New Zealanders' first win over Australia since the 2015 Anzac Test.

After the Kangaroos took a 12-8 lead into halftime despite the Kiwis controlling possession and territory, the home side hit the front when hooker Brandon Smith burrowed over in the 54th minute.

And when a light-stepping Johnson created an overlap, Esan Marsters put the Kiwis up 20-12.

Johnson again was allowed to run across field, with Manu popping a magical offload in traffic to send Jordan Rapana over to give his side what proved a winning lead at 26-12.

Earlier, the Australians started like a freight train with Mitchell putting Valentine Holmes over in just the third minute.

Five-eighth Luke Keary's Test debut was short-lived after he was taken off with a head knock in the 17th minute and did not return.

The Kiwis were twice denied by the video referees in the first half - with skipper Dallin Watene-Zelezniak controversially turned down after Manu was ruled to have knocked on after a spectacular pick-up and chip.

Manu did give his side an 8-6 lead when he produced a powerful fend to run over Mitchell in the 35th minute.

The Kangaroos produced something out of nothing when Daly Cherry-Evans, Tom Trbojevic and Dane Gagai combined on the stroke of halftime to make it 10-8, however the Kiwis powered home in the second half.



As it happened: Kiwis hold their nerve to beat Kangaroos 26-24 in absolute thriller

Welcome to 1 NEWS NOW's live coverage of this trans-Tasman Test between the Kiwis and the Kangaroos from Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland.

Wow, that was amazing. The Kiwis held on as Australia went for the try in the last 20 seconds. Captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, in his debut as Kiwis skipper, described the win as "surreal", saying their defence was key.

"This is the foundation we've got to build on," Watene-Zelezniak said straight after the game.

It was the first time the Kiwis had beaten Australia in three years.

Australian shipper Boyd Cordner lamented their errors, Australia made 12 to New Zealand's five.

In other stats, NZ had 89 % completion and completed nine more sets than their opponents.

Shaun Johnson is named man-of-the-match, and it's hard to argue with that. He was in everything good tonight and his kicking game, especially in the first half, was money.

80 mins: Kiwis 26 (Maumalo, Manu, Smith, Marsters, Rapana tries; Johnson 3 cons) Kangaroos 24 (Holmes, Gagai, Kafusi, Tedesco tries; Holmes 4 cons)

The Kiwis win!!!

77 mins: Kiwis 26 (Maumalo, Manu, Smith, Marsters, Rapana tries; Johnson 2 cons) Kangaroos 24 (Holmes, Gagai, Kafusi, Tedesco tries; Holmes 4 cons)

TRY! Maybe it's not over! Australia bust down the left through Mitchell and Tedesco somehow finds his way to the line. The conversion is good and it's a two point game, three minutes to go.

76 mins: Kiwis 26 (Maumalo, Manu, Smith, Marsters, Rapana tries; Johnson 2 cons) Kangaroos 18 (Holmes, Gagai, Kafusi tries; Holmes 3 cons)

TRY! Brandon Smith thinks he's scored another from dummy half but the TMO says no. At the other end Felise Kafusi crosses in the right corner. Too little too late for Australia though.

70 mins: Kiwis 26 (Maumalo, Manu, Smith, Marsters, Rapana tries; Johnson 2 con) Kangaroos 12 (Holmes, Gagai tries; Holmes con)

TRY! The Kiwis are carving them up! A wonderful one-handed short ball from Manu reaching out through the line to off-load to Rapana, who dives over in the corner! Johnson converts from the right sideline, and the Kiwis are home here. Australia need three tries, not going to happen.

62 mins: Kiwis 20 (Maumalo, Manu, Smith, Marsters tries; Johnson 2 con) Kangaroos 12 (Holmes, Gagai tries; Holmes con)

TRY! Esan Marsters has scored an amazing try for the Kiwis, in the left corner. A no doubter! Johnson set it up, changing direction with some marvellous stepping, shifts it back left and there is numbers. He's been good tonight Johnson and he converts from wide out. The Kiwis lead by eight.

60 mins: Kiwis 14 (Maumalo, Manu, Smith tries; Johnson con) Kangaroos 12 (Holmes, Gagai tries; Holmes con)

Australia behind for the first time in the game, lets see what they've got. And what they've got is the droppsies, Mitchell this time, Australia with 10 errors, NZ with just 3.

55 mins: Kiwis 14 (Maumalo, Manu, Smith tries; Johnson con) Kangaroos 12 (Holmes, Gagai tries; Holmes con)

TRY! Brandon Smith burrows over from dummy half and Johnson converts. NZ's first ever Kiwi born on Waiheke Island with a huge play. Game on.

51 mins: Kiwis 8 (Maumalo, Manu tries) Kangaroos 12 (Holmes, Gagai tries; Holmes con)

The Kiwis withstand wave after wave of Australian attack then win a penalty coming out of their own end.

46 mins: Kiwis 8 (Maumalo, Manu tries) Kangaroos 12 (Holmes, Gagai tries; Holmes con)

A tight start to the second half. The Kiwis give away a penalty but survive, as Australia ruck the ball up again. Johnson's kicking game is a bit off to start the second half. Australia win another penalty.

42 mins: Kiwis 8 (Maumalo, Manu tries) Kangaroos 12 (Holmes, Gagai tries; Holmes con)

We're underway in the second half.

40 mins: Kiwis 8 (Maumalo, Manu tries) Kangaroos 12 (Holmes, Gagai tries; Holmes con)

Gagai crosses for Australia in the last moments of the half after a Tom Trbojevic break down the right  edge. Holmes converts and its halftime.

37 mins: Kiwis 8 (Maumalo, Manu tries) Kangaroos 6 (Holmes try; Holmes con)

TRY! The Kiwis win a repeat set with another nice Johnson grubber but Australia defuse the next set and kick early in the count. NZ attack again and the skipper earns a penalty. From the re-start they spread it right and Manu crashes over. Reward for the Kiwis who have 70 per cent possession in the opening half hour. And Australia's halfback Luke Keary is done for the night. Johnson misses the kick.

32 mins: Kiwis 4 (Maumalo try) Kangaroos 6 (Holmes try; Holmes con)

Incredible stats. The Kiwis with still with 65 per cent possession, Australia's made 60 more tackles. Now the Kiwis win another penalty from the kick-off.

28 mins: Kiwis 4 (Maumalo try) Kangaroos 6 (Holmes try; Holmes con)

TRY! The Kiwis are over, Firstly, Johnson magic nearly created the Kiwis first try but he's dragged down just short. Australia are tired and this won't help, they've dropped it again bringing it out from their line. The Marty Tapau with the lovely off-load, Watene-Zelezniak with a tunnel ball through the legs and Maumalo goes in. Johnson misses the conversion.

24 mins: Kiwis 0 Kangaroos 6 (Holmes try; Holmes con)

The Kiwis win a repeat set but a forward pass out to Maumalo kills the chance. The Kiwis with 65 percent possession in the opening 20 odd minutes.

22 mins: Kiwis 0 Kangaroos 6 (Holmes try; Holmes con)

The Kiwis are penalised for lying on the ball carrier, then Damian Cook knocks on from dummy half for Aussie. The crowd likes that.

18 mins: Kiwis 0 Kangaroos 6 (Holmes try; Holmes con)

Maumalo thinks he's scored in his left corner but he's grounded it on the sideline.

17 mins: Kiwis 0 Kangaroos 6 (Holmes try; Holmes con)

Keary gets a knee in the head, it's Kevin Proctor's, and he's out cold. He's leaving the field.

16 mins: Kiwis 0 Kangaroos 6 (Holmes try; Holmes con)

This is good from the Kiwis. Now they earn a penalty, they get the off-loading game going, a loose pass but Keary knocks on. The Kiwis will come again, five out. Now another penalty.

14 mins: Kiwis 0 Kangaroos 6 (Holmes try; Holmes con)

Another repeat set for the Kiwis.

12 mins: Kiwis 0 Kangaroos 6 (Holmes try; Holmes con)

The Aussies bomb another try after another break down the Kiwis left edge, Holmes was away but the pass was forward. The Kiwis attack and earn a repeat set. A nice kick from Johnson, the crowd is into it.

8 mins: Kiwis 0 Kangaroos 6 (Holmes try; Holmes con)

Australia are just cutting NZ to pieces down their left edge. It's Latrell Mitchell again and the Kiwis are all over the place out there, it's Jordan Rapana and Joseph Manu, they haven't got their combination down at all. But Australia knock on with a try on offer, chance goes begging.

4 mins: Kiwis 0 Kangaroos 6 (Holmes try; Holmes con)

TRY! Valentine Holmes is over for an early down the left edge. It was pretty easy really, an overlap on the Kiwis 40 and its a big 2-on-1, Mitchell to Holmes and under the posts.

3 mins: Kiwis 0 Kangaroos 0

Clean start from both sides. Captain Watene-Zelezniak gets an touch, as Australia rucks it out.

1 mins: Kiwis 0 Kangaroos 0

A powerful haka from the Kiwis has the 15,000 strong crowd into it. And we're underway as the Kiwis kick off.


As a new era dawns for both the Kiwis and the Kangaroos, the two traditional rivals will meet face to face, with a host of exciting new talent on display.

With the likes of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Issac Luke and Nelson Asofa-Solomona unavailable for the Kiwis, coach Michael Maguire has named a fresh-faced side for his first home Test match in charge of the New Zealand side.

Australia meanwhile, play their first Test match since the retirements of legends of the game in Billy Slater, Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston.

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak finds himself in charge of the Kiwis, while the Kangaroos will be led by Bord Cordner, both ascending to captaincy for the first time in their international careers.

Keep an eye on the battle between the centres - and Roosters NRL winning teammates - with Joseph Manu lining up in a mouth watering showdown against Latrell Mitchell.


NZ: 1. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (c), 2. Ken Maumalo, 3. Esan Marsters, 4. Joseph Manu, 5. Jordan Rapana, 6. Shaun Johnson, 7. Kodi Nikorima, 8. Jesse Bromwich, 9. Brandon Smith, 10. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, 11. Kevin Proctor, 12. Issac Liu, 13. James Fisher-Harris.

Interchange: 14. Kenneath Bromwich, 15. Leeson Ah Mau, 16. Martin Tapau, 17. Adam Blair.

AUS: 1. James Tedesco, 2. Dane Gagai, 3. Tom Trbojevic, 4. Latrell Mitchell, 5. Valentine Holmes, 6. Luke Keary, 7. Daly Cherry-Evans, 8. David Klemmer, 9. Damien Cook, 10. Jordan McLean, 11. Boyd Cordner (c), 12. Felise Kafusi, 13. Josh McGuire.

Interchange: 14. Ben Hunt, 15. Jake Trbojevic, 16. Tyson Frizell, 17. Aaron Woods.



Jillaroos pip Kiwi Ferns in women's league thriller

Isabelle Kelly has fired the Australian Jillaroos to a thrilling 26-24 win over New Zealand in their women's rugby league Test.

Kiwi Ferns player Krystal Rota tackled by Jilaroos player Heather Ballinger.
Jillaroos v Kiwi Ferns, women's international rugby league, New Zealand v Australia, GIO Stadium, Canberra, Australia. 5 May 2017, Copyright Image: Paul Seiser / www.photosport.nz
Kiwi Ferns player Krystal Rota tackled by Jilaroos player Heather Ballinger. Source: Photosport

The superstar centre produced two pieces of brilliance this afternoon, including the 75th-minute match winner to get the world champions home against an injury-hit and gallant Kiwi Ferns at Auckland's Mt Smart Stadium.

Despite losing halfback Kimiora Nati and co-captain Laura Mariu either side of halftime, the New Zealanders refused to yield, pushing the Australians all the way in a see-sawing second-half.

The Jillaroos burst out of the blocks to be up 12-0 after 12 minutes with Ali Brigginshaw setting up Julia Robinson before doing it all herself.

The Kiwi Ferns were often their own worst enemies but managed to get on the board before the break when Raecene McGregor lofted the ball out to Langi Veainu.

Nati was helped off just before halftime with what appeared to be a serious knee problem however five-eighth McGregor stepped up to keep her side in the game.

The Australians also lost back-rower Kezie Apps to a knee problem.

But just when the Kiwi Ferns looked down and out, they crossed through Aieshaleigh Smalley and Veainu in the space of three minutes to take a 14-12 lead.

The Jillaroos hit straight back through Tazmin Gray however when a rampaging Maitua Feterija managed to get it down in the corner, the scores were locked at 18-18 to set up a grandstand finish.

Kelly then broke the game open when she ran through Nita Maynard to race 70 metres to score however, importantly, Chelsea Baker missed the conversion.

After Brigginshaw dropped the ball from the kickoff, it put the Jillaroos under pressure and Amber Kani produced some late footwork at the line to go in between the posts to go in front 24-22.

But as the New Zealanders looked like they might steal it, the Jillaroos spread it right and Kelly crossed with five minutes remaining to hoist the trans-Tasman Trophy.


Watch: Joseph Manu's friends and family pack into bus to cheer for Kiwis debutant

With concerns of an empty Mt Smart Stadium for tonight's Test between the Kiwis and the Kangaroos, the friends and family of youngster Joseph Manu are doing their best to ensure a capacity crowd.

With Manu to make his Kiwis debut in the centres against Australia tonight, a travelling army of supporters are making their way up from his hometown of Tokoroa, in order to support the debutant.

"We'll bring the noise," Manu's uncle Barney Teao says.

"We're there to support our boy and our team."

It's not the first time travelling support have followed Manu, recently crossing the ditch to attend the NRL Grand Final, won by Manu's Sydney Roosters.

A bus from Tokoroa of Joseph Manu supporters is en route to Mt Smart for tonight's Test. Source: 1 NEWS