Autumn-Rain Stephens and two Kiwi Ferns teammates watch a video of their reaction when they learn they have found the MIQ place to return home to New Zealand.
Autumn-Rain Stephens was living the dream – she secured a contract with the NRL while playing professionally in the Women’s League in Australia for the Newcastle Knights.
But then Covid-19 came back, her competition was postponed and she got stuck
Australia is unable to secure an MIQ location to return home.
The hard days turned into weeks.
But on Tuesday – as she headed into her sixth week of uncertainty – Stephens received the good news she was hoping for.
His Kiwi Ferns teammates were also stranded, Caitlin Vahakolo and Maitua Feterica, he checked on the MIQ website.
The celebration of ecstasy was filmed as the trio realized they were on their way home.
For Stephens’ mother, Eliza Stephens of Rotorua, the news was music to her ears.
She was in constant contact with her daughter, sharing her frustrations at not being home for Christmas.
“She told me she was number 5042, so it didn’t look right. Two hours later she returned that video and oh my god I had tears in my eyes. Just to see his reactions. They were finally coming home.
Speaking to Newcastle’s Rotorua Daily Post, Autumn-Rain Stephens said that upon hearing she was truly grateful, but not all of her fellow Kiwi Ferns players had secured a place at home.
“At that point I was excited, but once this campaign ended with the realization that not all of the women trapped here had found a place to return home, it was heartbreaking to learn that ‘they would be left here. “
She said some of them would give up their places for others, but that was not an option with the New Zealand MIQ.
She said Newcastle is a wonderful place to live and her club had taken great care of her, but the way MIQ was now run, she wasn’t sure she would ever come home.
“Was it like I couldn’t go home for a long time?” “
Although she feels uncomfortable at home about a week ago, she said the experience has been positive for personal development.
“It makes me look forward to coming back next year and giving the NRL a good shot.”
She wants to give back to the Newcastle Knights for their commitment “by being my best autodidact on the field”.
“The fire inside is burning and this place I’ve been in for 11 weeks turns me on when it comes time to step out on the grass in a red and blue jersey.”
Eliza Stephens said the wait to get home was all the more frustrating as she knew the NRL men’s teams were allowed to continue playing.
Eliza Stephens said the MIQ process was widely criticized and believed that some sort of process was needed to prioritize those who needed to return home.
“They (the Kiwi Fern players) should be given priority over the returning people who are not even from our country or the big power businessmen. It shouldn’t be for people who want to shoot on vacation. “
Eliza Stephens said professional athletes who have made their dreams come true should be taken care of.
“I don’t know, but maybe there are some who don’t want to resume competition next year. Some of these girls have had a hard time emotionally. Would they really want to leave New Zealand again?
The good news for her daughter is that she is out on Sunday and is expected to arrive in solitary confinement in time to play the New Zealand Maori Rugby League’s Tukana Open women’s and men’s tournaments at Rotorua International Stadium on weekend of work.
“They went to Australia for a job and couldn’t go out there, so they want to come out on the pitch and play.”
There are now 32 MIQ hotels in New Zealand but that is still not enough and getting a place is a game of luck.
There is a new “virtual lobby” system in which people are randomly selected for locations, but demand exceeds supply.
Since the last two rounds, there have been more than 30,000 in this hall, or 10 times the number of rooms available.
Rotorua was in line for a fourth MIQ hotel, but the government rejected it last week after a public backlash.