Georgia Ponsonby has rugby on her mind.
Georgia is the captain and leader of Feilding High School’s sevens and fifteens teams and tomorrow night she will make her second consecutive start at No. 8 for the Manawatu Women’s team in the Farah Palmer Cup NPC competition.
The Cyclones return home from Canterbury for their first home game of the series against Waikato and Georgia is excited by the challenge. “Our game is the curtain-raiser for the men’s game and is our televised game as well, so I’m looking forward to that,” she told College Sport Media this week.
After having the bye in the first round, Georgia made her debut off the bench in a 35-27 win over Wellington at Petone and then started in their 10-40 loss to Canterbury in Christchurch last Saturday.
“Canterbury had a lot of attacking speed and offloading and we just didn’t match it.” Christchurch Girls’ High School fullback Grace Brooker scored two tries. “It didn’t help that our scrum got pumped, but our lineouts were an improvement from the Wellington game.”
Georgia is one of three current schoolgirls in the Cyclones Women’s NPC squad, along with lock Jessica Fagan-Pease who is also the Palmerston North Girls’ High School netball captain and on the bench on Friday against Waikato, and her Feilding HS teammate and year 12 player Ashleigh Knight who has yet to make her debut.
Georgia made her debut for Manawatu in sevens last summer, with the Cyclones beating Wellington 26-5 in the final of the Central Region Tournament and then missing out 17-24 to Counties Manukau in the final of the National tournament in Rotorua in January.
Having played with many of the established players previously, she is not overawed. “When I started training and playing with the sevens team and with players like [Black Ferns fullback] Selica Winiata I was a bit nervous but I am more used to it and learning off Selica and others is really good for me.”
Plus there’s other former Fielding High School players also playing for Manawatu that she’s played with. Georgia, Lauren Balsillie, Nicole Dickins (captain) and Corrineke Windle are all Feilding HS players and in the starting XV against Waikato.
Other recent former Feilding HS players to have played international rugby are Sarah Goss, Charlotte Scanlan, Crystal Mayes, Mallory Townshend, Hayley Hutana (all New Zealand) and Amy Cockayne (England).
As well as being a Manawatu Cyclones player, Georgia is the leader of her school teams that are in a re-building phase after being two-time National champions in 2012 and 2013.
“I joined the Feilding High School team in year 10 in 2014. I had played netball up until then, which was my main sport and I continued playing both but I gave up netball last year just so I could focus on rugby.
Georgia is the only year 13 player in this year’s Feilding HS sevens team and one of three year 13s in the fifteens team. “We have got lots of new players, we have got a few year 12s and more year 11s. We also have an U15s team, so hopefully the future is good.”
For the first time in several seasons, Feilding HS didn’t win the Manawatu girls championship this year, beaten by Manukura in the final.
This put Feilding up against Wellington champions St Mary’s in the Hurricanes semi-final, a match they defaulted. Georgia explained that they forfeited this game primarily because it clashed with the netball finals that some players were also involved with and they had a couple of key injuries and a suspension (a red card against Manukura).
The school is now focussed on sevens. “We have started training for the Condor 7s at the end of the year. We train on a Monday after school and at the moment we go over to Wanganui on Wednesdays to play in a series of practice games.”
Georgia is a boarder at Feilding High School. Her father is a station manager half an hour out of Taihape on the Gentle Annie Highway that goes to Napier.
There is little that is gentle about her play though. An industrious loose forward in fifteens and prop in sevens, Georgia leads by example in all teams she plays for.
Her uncle Tom Deighton was a hooker and the most capped player (26 appearances) in the combined Manawatu-Hawke’s Bay Central Vikings team that played in the men’s NPC competition in 1997 and 1998. Her younger brother is also a boarder at Feilding High School.
Coming up in the October school holidays are the trials for the U18 Girls Sevens, U18 Girls Maori Sevens and U17 Girls Sevens teams.
Each Super Rugby franchise base is set to host its own training camp and trials, from which the teams will be selected for the second annual World Schools Sevens tournament in mid-December. Georgia made this team last year, which was selected from the Condors tournament.
Georgia is one three Feilding HS players in the 120-strong squad, along with Jannah Rowden, and Myah Rata
Next year she is eyeing up starting an ag commerce degree at either nearby Massy University or Lincoln University. Either way she wants to continue with rugby beyond this season.
College Sport Media is dedicated to telling the story of successful young sportspeople in New Zealand