By Rachael Coll

A day that will surely go down in our school’s history books. We had the extraordinary privilege of hosting the esteemed NZ Black Ferns 7’s team. Their visit epitomised camaraderie and inspiration.

As the anticipation built up to their arrival, our hearts raced with excitement and a touch of nervousness. The task of hosting these Wāhine Toa was nerve-wracking, but with an awesome display of teamwork that spanned across our dedicated staff, our spirited tamariki, and our exceptional student leaders, who rose to the occasion magnificently.

An afternoon filled with awe and admiration unfolded as we welcomed the Black Ferns 7’s with a student-led pōwhiri that emanated power, mana, and an overwhelming sense of pride. This ceremonial welcome, whilst a regular feature in our school, was extra special and our student leaders uplifted the mana of our kura with their confidence, competence and energy to inspire and uplift the Black Ferns 7’s.

The Black Ferns 7’s, known for their prowess on the field, were equally impressed by the cultural competence and mana of our tamariki and the care | manaakitanga of our kura. It was apt that their time at our kura aligned perfectly with the theme of their Waihī Beach camp: Hononga | Connection.

Our respected local Te Whānau a Tauwhao hapū and Otawhiwhi Kohanga Reo contributed precious pieces of Tūhua, a token of strength that serve as a connection to our moutere | island, to overcome challenges, no matter how seemingly insurmountable. ‘He ahakoa he iti, he pounamu’ | ‘Although it is small, it is precious’.

With great admiration, our girls’ rugby team presented the Black Fern 7’s with tīpare | headbands made from harakeke, signifying not just a physical gift, but a transfer of strength and unity. We gifted sands of the Waiau awa | river and the North End moana | ocean, depicting the link between our healing waters, land and sea.

As the day unfolded, we seized every opportunity to interact with these living legends, relishing every moment. The atmosphere was charged with laughter, as we shared kai, and the competitive spirit that was awakened through friendly contests. Be it skills and drills, exhilarating sprint races or the epic arm wrestling battles, all of these moments of light-hearted competition only served to further deepen the connection between us, creating memories that will forever be etched in our minds.

With hearts full of gratitude, we are looking forward to following their journey to the 2024 Olympics in France.

Black Ferns 7’s Interveiw:

Note from the interviewers: There were a few tears of excitement from a few of us when the Black Ferns 7’s arrived! We were all subtly trying to get closer to our idols. We couldn’t wait to meet them and interview them. Interviewing the Black Ferns 7’s was

a good experience, to learn from other people that play rugby professionally. It encourages us to play and not be scared to put ourselves out there. We learned from our Black Ferns to never forget where you’ve come from, your whānau and what got you there. We loved Sarah’s favourite moment when she told her whānau that she had made it into the Black Ferns 7’s.

Sonny – What age did you start playing rugby?

“I’m Stacey Waaka and I started playing at fifteen years old.” “I’m Sarah Hirini and I started playing at thirteen years old.”

“I’m Portia Woodman-Wickliffe and I started playing at twenty-one years old.”

“I’m Theresa Fitzpatrick and I started playing at five years old.”

 

Emere – What or who got you into playing rugby?

Stacey – “My friends and teachers at high school.”

Sarah – “My friends and my teacher, Rob Jones, at high school.”

Portia – “I wanted to be an Olympian, and I wanted to join the sevens so I could have a chance at playing in the Olympics in 2016”.

Theresa – “I wanted to play the same sports as my cousins; they played rugby, so I played rugby too.”

 

Sonny – Was there a time in your rugby career when you wanted to give up?

Stacey – “There’s always challenging times for me and the biggest time is when you get injured because it’s hard and it’s a long time away from the game. So sometimes you do have thoughts, but then you have the right people behind you, supporting you and helping you get through those moments. So yes, there are moments, but you’ve got to get through them.”

Sarah – “Yep I’ve definitely had a couple of moments, but the things that have brought me out of it are my friends and my family who know that I really love rugby and know that it makes me happy as well.”

Portia – “Yes, there definitely have been moments. Like Stacey
said, injuries make it really hard when you’re not doing the thing that you love. But what helps you out of it is your support base, your friends and whānau. Also knowing why we got into it. I love playing the game of rugby with my mates, so I just wanted to keep playing for it and make a comeback.”

Theresa – “Similar to everyone else, yes when it gets hard or you’re away from your family for a long time. In our jobs, we have to make sacrifices and we get injured sometimes. So, remembering why we play and making sure you always enjoy yourself so it’s worth it.”

 

Emere – When you were little was rugby your dream job?

Stacey – “When I was little, it wasn’t. My dream job was to become a Silver Fern, I’m glad I became a Black Fern instead, it’s way better.”

Sarah – “When I was little, I wanted to be a Blackstick. When I was 16, all I wanted to be was a Black Fern and travel the world playing rugby.”

Portia – “Rugby wasn’t my dream but I always wanted to play it. I was like Stacey, I wanted to be a Silver Fern. But once rugby became an Olympic sport, it became a dream I couldn’t not do.”

Theresa – “When I was little, rugby wasn’t a job and so I actually wanted to be a vet or a doctor.”

 

Sonny – What’s your proudest moment in rugby?

Stacey – “My proudest moment in rugby is my debut. The first time I played with New Zealand, I was 19 years old playing for the Black Ferns in Canada and away from family. So, it was cool to make them proud wearing that black jersey for the first time.”

Sarah – “One would definitely be telling my parents that I had made the team for the first time. That made me really proud and seeing how happy they were and watching my mum cry. Another one would probably be after the World Cup last year, seeing all the boys, girls and also the older adults wear the Black Ferns jersey with pride.”

Portia – “I think there’s lots of different moments. Winning the Olympics, when we got 2nd in 2016; coming back from that was pretty cool. I think the biggest thing I’m proud of is coming back from my injuries. For so long it took me out for a year and a half, and it was quite a hard time, but I’m proud of myself for coming back”.

Theresa – “My proudest moments are the ones that are most memorable, probably the few times we got to play here in New Zealand so that’s always special to get to play live in front of your family and friends”.

 

Emere – Do you enjoy any other sports besides rugby?

Stacey – “Absolutely, I love every sport, but if I had to choose my top two, it would definitely be netball and touch. If they were in the Olympics, I probably would try to play those too, because they’re definitely my two other favourite sports. I loved every sport as a kid. If I could be outside playing sports, that’s what makes me happy.”

Sarah – “I love watching sports. I love supporting people who play sports, and I think sport has really altered the way my life has turned out. So I’m very grateful for that.”

Portia – “There’s lots of crazy sports like snowboarding. I love snowboarding, I’m not very good at it. I love the idea of dropping in on a halfpipe and doing some backflips. I can’t do that, but I’d love to. One sport that I really admire is golf. It’s such a technical sport, it’s boring if you don’t understand the technicalities around it. Once you get into it, it’s a really cool sport. I suck at it, but I love it.”

Theresa – “I grew up trying and playing every single sport I could, even if I didn’t know the rules. But one of the other sports that I enjoy watching, and I admire, is tennis. I guess the mental strength that you have to have to play it, down by match point one, and then go on to win the whole game.”

 

Sonny – Why do you think it’s important for girls to play rugby?

Stacey – “So many things, I think rugby teaches everyone many life skills and you know, you gain a lot of important life skills from that to become the person you are. So for me, I think it’s a cool opportunity for girls to play the game, and understand themselves a bit better. You get so many connections with so many people and it helps grow your personality and your development first, and then ultimately you become an awesome human being.”

Sarah – “When I was a kid, I wanted to play rugby. I went to the rugby sign up, but there were no girls, so I freaked out and didn’t sign up. So, for me it’s important for girls to play because it shows that you are brave, and it gives you the feeling that you’ve got superpowers when you’re on the field. I think it’s really important that we can show that girls can still do anything, we can be better than the boys.”

Portia – “I think girls should play rugby because it gives them confidence. Like Sarah said, you feel brave, you feel immortal on the rugby field. I was a shy, shy little girl and there’s no way I’d be able to speak in front of that many people. When I was your age or younger than I am now, it’s like rugby gives you so much more confidence in who you are and what you want. You can get on the field and you want to express and play alongside your best mates. I’ve made best mates in this team that I’ll have for the rest of my life. I think it’s an element of rugby that all girls should be a part of.”

Theresa – “I think it’s important for girls to play rugby because it allows a very challenging environment, but also a safe space for girls to express themselves and do it with other people so you’re not by yourself. You get to make friends; you get to succeed and fail safely on the same team and it’s lots of fun.”

 

Emere – What is your favourite thing to do when you’re not playing rugby?

Stacey – “If I’m being really honest, it’s hanging out with my family, my nephews and nieces. I love going home to my small town. Because we are away so much, travelling the world, we never get to see enough of them. I love to see them, I can show them love, buy them things, because aunty never gets to see them. That’s definitely one of my favourite things.”

Sarah – “I love to hang out with my dog and my husband at the beach, which is a pretty close walking distance to the beach, so we’re always there at home in Papamoa. I also like reading.”

Portia – “I’m a bit of a tutu, so I do lots of random things. I get fixated on either building or knitting or sewing, doing lots of random little bits, so ultimately anything away from rugby. Anything with my hands, hanging out with whānau, inspiring our babies, hanging out with my daughter who is ten years old, the same age as you guys (student reporters). Hopefully she’s doing stuff like this, which is pretty cool.”

Theresa – “Outside of rugby I love spending time with my family and my partner. I like taking my niece and nephew outside because they don’t really like going outside these days. Spending time with them and I also love food, listening to music and I study, but I don’t love study.”