The Tasman women’s rugby squad that was named last week to compete in the Farah Palmer Cup Women’s NPC competition for the first time includes four current secondary schoolgirls from Motueka High School.
Year 13 students Sydnee Wilkins, Risi Pouri-Lane, Lyric Siaki and Emily Kelly were all selected in the 28-player squad that plays the first of its six competition matches at Blenheim’s Lansdowne Park on 2 September and plays another two games closer to home at Nelson’s Trafalglar Park against Hawke’s Bay and North Harbour.
Speaking to College Sport Media on behalf of the group, Sydnee Wilkins said the Motueka High School girls have been selected following a season of club rugby and a recent trial match.
Motueka’s senior students (16 and over) have been playing in the senior women’s Tasman competition, with several older players making up the numbers. “The U16s weren’t allowed to play in the senior competition, so we joined the club competition with some senior women playing for us to boost our numbers. That way too we also got more experience and competition out of it.”
The club competition consists of five teams, two from Marlborough, two from Nelson and the school-based Motueka side.
The four girls play across the park. “I’m a fullback, Risi is a first five-eighth, Lyric is a utility forward and Emily is a flanker and midfielder,” said Sydnee. “All of us started playing together in Year 9, so we have come through playing together.”
Sydnee has already been involved in Tasman senior sevens rugby. “I was in the Tasman sevens team last year, but my dad had a heart condition and they thought it could have been passed on to me so the NZRU prevented me from playing. But it’s since checked out fine and my dad’s all good too.”
Sydnee and Risi – who is also a New Zealand Development squad member – were recently selected in the national secondary schoolgirls U18 training squad.
“In late October we go to a camp and a trial and they bring in other people outside of the training squad to pick the actual team and Lyric and Emily made the trial team. And from that they pick a New Zealand U18 team.”
Sydnee and her teammates have set pulses racing in several schoolgirls sevens tournaments over the past year or so.
With a vocal band of supporters and in good form, Mouteka High School were one of the popular teams at last December’s Condor Sevens in Auckland. Later on day one, they were involved in a titanic match with Christchurch Girls’ High School.
“That was a big game for us, we play them a lot. We don’t have a lot of strong local competition, so we look to other teams like Christchurch Girls’ High School and Hamilton Girls’ High School who have also been rivals for a few years now.”
Earlier this year in Palmerston North, Motueka High School were beaten finalists to national and subsequent world champions St Mary’s College at the Sir Gordon Tietjens tournament, with Sydnee named tournament MVP. They then won the South Island School 7s in Timaru, beating CGHS 19-5 in the final. In July they were beaten 5-0 in freezing conditions by Southland GHS in their semi-final of the South Island Girls Rugby Festival tournament in Oamaru.
The sevens season heats up soon. “We are focusing on 15s rugby for the Tasman team, but our school is starting to get into sevens, because we are going to Australia in September for the Trans-Tasman tournament.”
The tournament on the Gold Coast is on the weekend of 16-17 September, the weekend that Tasman has their Women’s NPC bye.
“Most of our players have been playing together for five years, so we saw this tournament as a good trip to go over to together and also to help our preparation for the other school rugby coming up.”
Girls rugby has taken off nationally over the past few years, to the point where there’s schools including Motueka HS challenging the traditional schools like Hamilton GHS, Feilding HS and Southland GHS.
“There was a heap of us that kind of came through together in Year 9 and it started to grow from there. As well as our women’s team that we senior girls play in, we also have a schoolgirls team where the younger ones play in and they and the seniors rotate round and help each other out.”
Sydnee and Risi are the Motueka High School Sevens co-captains and Emily and Lyric are the school’s Fifteens co-captains.
Sydnee has been playing since she was five, except for a couple of seasons playing other sports in her intermediate years. She used to play touch and athletics competitively, and still does athletics when time allows.
“I was a 400m runner on the track and the two years I did it as a junior we won gold in the 400m x 400m relay at the NZSS Athletics Championships. Last year the athletics clashed with the Condor 7s but my dad drove me across Auckland and I did the relay again.”
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