Some more outstanding female rugby this year – and it continues next weekend with the Condor Sevens tournament in Auckland.
Grace Brooker (Christchurch Girls’ High School) - In July Grace Brooker was selected as one of four schoolgirls and two from her school (with Rosie Kelly) in Canterbury’s Women’s NPC squad. She scored two tries on debut against Manawatu and also bagged a brace in the semi-final win over Waikato and played in the 13-7 Farah Palmer Cup final win over Counties Manukau, as part of six appearances on the left wing and fullback. Already in the Canterbury Sevens team, deputy head prefect Brooker was a key member in CGHS’s UC Cup Crusaders schools win this year, playing as an openside flanker and was Women’s Player of the Year for her High School Old Boys club team.
Dhys and Lyric Faleafaga (St Mary’s College) - The two SMC sisters recognised together here in this list. Captain Dhys was the standout girls player at the 15s national Top 4 tournament in September, while at the start of this year Lyric was offered a Black Ferns Sevens training contract and recently won the College Sport Wellington girls rugby Player of the Year award. In April, Lyric travelled to Japan with the full Black Ferns sevens squad. She subsequently missed much of the 15s season with a shoulder injury, which has since been operated on and she is currently rehabbing. Dhys carried the family name in to the Top 4 tournament, where the loose forward-turned midfielder played two inspiration games against Southern Cross Campus and Hamilton Girls’ High School respectively to lift the Hine Pounamu Trophy for the first time. Dhys went on to make three appearances for the Wellington Pride in the Women’s NPC.
Renee Holmes (Gisborne Girls’ High School) – Gisborne’s Renee Holmes played in each of Hawke’s Bay’s opening three Women’s NPC matches this year and was named as her side’s most valuable player in two of them, going on to play five times in her first domestic season. With pace, strength and a strong kicking game in her armoury and the ability to play multiple backline positions, comparisons have been made to Charlie Ngatai (also out of Gisborne) as a female equivalent. Making the regular commute south to train and play, Renee was the Hastings Rugby & Sport club's women’s season MVP and the team’s top points scorer. Captained her GGHS team to victory in the Hawke’s Bay Secondary Schools competition, scoring a try and kicking two conversions in the final 19-15 win over Hastings GHS. Multi-talented Renee is a former National League footballer and is a NZ U20 Ultimate player.
Jazmin Hotham (Hamilton Girls’ High School) - The Year 12 student hit 2017 in hot form having won the MVP of the Condor Sevens in December of the previous year. The Hamilton Girls First XV had another top season finishing runners-up to St Mary’s College at the National Top Four in Palmerston North. Hamilton outscored all opponents 713-44. Hotham scored a 90-metre try on the stroke of halftime in the National Top Four semi-final against defending champions Southland Girls’ High School which changed the course of the game. Hotham typically plays in the midfield, but has the pace of a winger.
Georgia Ponsonby (Feilding High School) – Debut season for Manawatu this year in the Women’s NPC with a series of industrious performances off the back of the scrum for the Cyclones, alongside another schoolgirl regular Jessica Fagan-Pease (Palmerston North GHS) at lock. Georgia made a winning debut against Wellington and went on to play six matches. Captain of the Feilding High School team, Ponsonby is just at home in sevens rugby and is in her second year in the Manawatu women’s sevens squad that were beaten national finalists in January. Feilding are not heading to next week’s Condors but both Georgia and Jessica will be attending the development camp in Auckland in mid-December to prepare for the second annual World School Sevens tournament. Georgia has been a boarder at Feilding HS, with her family currently farming half an hour out of Taihape.
Risi Pouri-Lane (Motueka High School) - A key player in the well-performing Motueka High School team, Risi Pouri-Lane travelled to Japan earlier this year with the Black Ferns Development sevens team. Previously, the diminutive danger-woman was a star in the Tasman representative women’s sevens team at the National tournament in Rotorua in January. She plays first five-eighth in 15s rugby and played four matches in this year’s Farah Palmer Cup for them, scoring a try and landing four kicks in her final appearance of the year against Hawke’s Bay. Has already represented New Zealand in both judo and touch and has competed nationally in athletics.
The Champion of Champion series is not intended to be a definitive list of the ‘best’ athletes in each code, rather it celebrates many of the leading athletes and teams in each that College Sport Media has followed this year. Preference has gone to those individuals/teams that CSM has interviewed and profiled in 2017. Got a story? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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