IRB Hall of Fame – Induction No.85 – Dr Farah Ranikoepa Palmer ONZM (New Zealand, Otago, Waikato, Waikato University, Manawatu, Alhambra Union) 1972- 

Personal details

– Born: 27 November, 1972 in Te Kuiti, King Country, New Zealand
– Family: She resides in Palmerston North, New Zealand, with her partner Wesley Clarke and two children Cody Matariki and Paige Ria Rangikoepa. She is the oldest daughter of Judith Palmer (Maori) and Bruce Palmer (Pakeha) and has three sisters, Coral, Monica and Dale Ana Maria. 
– Education: Piopio College and Otago University 

Other sports/interests

She did tap and Highland dancing competitively from the age of five to 12 and played netball during her high school years, captaining the senior A netball team in her last few years of college. She also participated in anything and everything the small school offered such as athletics, swimming, cross-country, school productions, kapa haka (Maori performing arts and culture group) and the choir. She became the Student Representative on the School of Trustees (similar to the Head Girl) in 1990. 

Early years

Although she had played rugby socially once during high school, Palmer started to take the sport seriously after she moved to Otago University to study Physical Education on a Maori Women’s Welfare League/YWCA scholarship. She was mentored by current Silver Fern (New Zealand netball) coach, Waimarama Taumaunu and Rugby League legend Howie Tamati, who kept her focused on her studies. She joined the Otago University club in 1992 and that year made the Otago team as a non-travelling reserve, a moment that sparked her competitive spirit.

Senior rugby 

– Originally a prop, Palmer switched to hooker in 1994 and was named as reserve number two in the 1995 New Zealand squad. 
– She first played for New Zealand on 31 August, 1996 against Australia in Sydney – a match won 28–5. That year she was also appointed Otago captain. 
– In 1997, Palmer moved temporarily to Hamilton to complete her PhD in Data Collection and played for the Waikato University club as well as representing Waikato. While there she was mentored by legendary women’s rugby player Lenadeen Simpson-Brown and had the opportunity to play alongside Vanessa Coutes.
– Became captain of the Black Ferns in 1997 and celebrated with a 67–0 win over England at Burnham Army Camp in Christchurch, followed by a win against Australia at Carisbrook in Dunedin. 
– She moved back to Dunedin in 1998 where she played for Alhambra Union and developed her game further under the coaching of club legends Nan and Phil Haua. That same year she captained the Black Ferns to victory at Women’s Rugby World Cup 1998 in the Netherlands. 
– Moved to Palmerston North in 2001 to take up a position in sports management at Massey University. There she joined the Kia Toa Rugby Club, where she captained the Manawatu team, and continued to lead the Black Ferns who claimed a second Women’s Rugby World Cup title in 2002 in Barcelona, Spain. 
– After taking a year out of rugby to compete as a bodybuilder, she re-joined the Black Ferns side in 2003.
– In 2005, she missed her first match for the Black Ferns since making her debut nine years earlier due to injury.
– Won promotion to the National Women’s Championship with Manawatu in 2006, and later that year captained the Black Ferns in her third Women’s Rugby World Cup. After defeating England 25–17 in the final Palmer announced her retirement from playing.
– During her time as captain the Black Ferns lost only once. She scored 25 points, and her total of 35 Test appearances for the Black Ferns makes her the third-most capped player behind Anna Richards and Emma Jensen.  

Other achievements/awards

– Named Women’s Player of the Year 1998 by the New Zealand Rugby Union and Maori Sportsperson of the Year at the Maori Sports Awards (an award she received again in 2006).
– Completed her PhD in sport sociology in 2000
– Runner-up in the 2003 Bay of Plenty and Manawatu NABBA Physique novice women’s bodybuilding competition,
– Named the IRB International Women’s Personality of the Year in 2003 
– In 2006, she was inducted into the School of Physical Education Wall of Fame, University of Otago, Dunedin.
– Named an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) in 2007 for her outstanding contribution to women’s rugby and sport in general

Post playing career

She is currently the Director of the Maori Business and Leadership Centre and a Senior Lecturer in the School of Management, College of Business, Massey University. Her teaching and research interests are in sport sociology, management, leadership and governance as they relate to Māori and women. She is passionate about promoting the combination of sport, education and business for personal and collective benefit.