Two current schoolgirl players and one 2017 school-leaver have been selected in the Black Ferns Sevens squad for 2018.
Risi Pouri-Lane (Motueka High School) and Lyric Faleafaga (St Mary’s College) have both been selected in 20-player contracted squad, while Jazmin Hotham (Hamilton Girls’ High School) is one of three additional players with training contracts.
Black Ferns Sevens Coach Allan Bunting said the growth in the women’s game has unearthed talented athletes and that he is looking forward to working with the new players.
“We have been keeping a close eye on the development group for quite a while and watched how they performed at Nationals last month.
“The players we have brought in have a lot of potential and the ability to learn and grow quickly. They will add enthusiasm to our group and have the character and work ethic that we are after,” said Bunting.
Hotham was a member of the New Zealand Under 17 girls’ sevens team last December and was the 2016 Condor 7s Player of the Tournament.
“We saw Hotham in action last year and could see her talent then. She stands out at everything she does, she is deputy head girl and we want her to enjoy her last year at school. We want to support her and hopefully she will graduate into our squad full time next year.”
Pouri-Lane finished Year 13 at Motueka High School last year and joins the Black Ferns Sevens full time in 2018.
“Risi has shown a real dedication to Sevens over the past few years and has been a part of the development squad. She comes from a judo background and you can see that, she is good in contact. Risi is keen to learn and brings a well-rounded skill set.
Falefaga is on the comeback in 2018 from a shoulder operation, after leading St Mary’s to the 2017 Sanix World title in Japan and then linking up with the Black Ferns in Japan as a training partner.
“The idea of training contacts is to support these younger players to migrate into the full squad. There is a big gap between national and international level, so we are looking to give them support to get physically ready and grow their technical skill set.”
Bunting said the aim is to not only grow his squad but work closely with the development programme as well.
“The plan this year is to give all of our contracted players experience on the field at some stage. Commonwealth Games and World Cup will be our top players, but we want to inject others throughout the year and have 20 players that are capable of competing for the playing 12 every tournament.
“Beyond that we really want to grow the depth, we want to see the development squad players challenging for contracts and have a good group of 30 players pushing for spots.”
The squad is now preparing for April’s Commonwealth Games in Australia, before three World Sevens Series tournament and theRugby World Cup Sevens round out the season.
The contracted squad is (* indicates a new contracted player):
Shakira Baker – Waikato
Michaela Blyde - Bay of Plenty
Kelly Brazier – Bay of Plenty
Gayle Broughton – Bay of Plenty
Lyric Faleafaga – Wellington
Rhiarna Ferris – Manawatu*
Theresa Fitzpatrick – Auckland
Sarah Goss – Manawatu
Huia Harding – Waikato*
Jazmin Hotham – Waikato* (training contract)
Natahlia Moors - Auckland* (training contract)
Tyla Nathan-Wong – Auckland
Risi Pouri-Lane – Tasman*
Leanna Ryan - Waikato* (training contract)
Alena Saili - Southland
Shiray Tane – Waikato
Terina Te Tamaki – Waikato
Ruby Tui – Bay of Plenty
Stacey Waaka – Waikato
Kat Whata-Simpkins – Wellington
Niall Williams – Auckland
Tenika Willison – Waikato
Portia Woodman – Counties Manukau