Kalyn Takitimu-Cook’s first game of rugby was at the start of 2017. Later this year she will be packing her bags for the Youth Olympic Games in Argentina with the New Zealand U18 Sevens team.
With a background playing touch and growing up in Papakura, a move to Manawatu with her family and to school at Manukura proved a catalyst for a fast track to success.
Read about Kalyn’s sporting and rugby journey below:
How did you start playing sevens rugby?
I grew up in Papakura/ South Auckland playing a lot of touch most of my life. We moved down to Palmerston North for my dad’s job in the NZ Army In January 2017 and that was the start of my 7s career.
Tell us about your first tournament?
I played my first tournament at the Sir Gorden Tietjens tournament [at Massey University, March 2017] for Manukura. I had no experience with the game, so my go-to was to play like a touch player, running back five metres instead of two metres. That is where I found a passion for the game, and keen as to learn more about it.
Before your recent trip to Sydney with the NZ U18 7s team , you had previously represented New Zealand?
The first time I represented my country was at the trans-Tasman Touch Test series in January 2017, in the NZ U18 Mixed team. The second time I represented my country was for sevens rugby at the World Schools tournament in Auckland in December last year. We were very fortunate to win that tournament.
What does it mean to wear the black jersey?
It is extremely emotional and a real honour to wear the black jersey to represent NZ. Not only am I representing myself, my team mates and my whanau, it’s about upholding the values of NZ and not only doing my role on the field but ensuring that I am being a good person off the field also.
What is an early memory of watching or being around rugby when you were younger?
My family love rugby! Papa bought us tickets to go watch his team (The Chiefs). That was my first time going to watch a game live, and because I’d watched it on TV for so long, I said to papa I can’t hear the commentators I met heaps of famous people jumping over the chairs to be the first one down to get their autographs before they went in the tunnel.
You are going to the Youth Olympics in October – tell us about your reaction to being selected in this team?
I felt like I won the lotto, I was excited, nervous and I felt very lucky.
At what stage had you set your goals on making this team?
About 12 months ago I watched the movie Chasing great by Richie McCaw, who inspired me to keep a journal to set goals and plan my future in the game.
What rugby you are playing at the moment and over the remainder of this winter?
I currently play for my school Manukura 15s teams and local 15s club rugby for Feilding Old Boys Oroua.
What has been a memorable moment or a highlight for you in your rugby career so far?
Winning the World schools 7s tournament at the end of last year, beating Australia in the final.
Who have been your rugby mentors so far?
My first mentor was Janna Vaughan [Black Ferns 7s player] who believed in me, teaching me all the fundamentals in the game. At school I’ve been coached by Kristina Sue [Black fern 15s player] and Rhiarna ferris and Crystal Mayes [both fulltime contracted 7s players], who have helped develop my knowledge in the game, very lucky to have these people. Regionally Mike Pettmen and Rob Jones have been a huge influence on me, And all the Manawatu 7s ladies, who guide me and giving the odd growling now and again. Behind the Scenes Connie King [owner of The Kingz Co Facebook page to inspire athletes /people to be confident] she inspires me to train at a higher level. She pushes me past my limits. Training with me at 5:30am everyday pushing me both physically and mentally.
From my papa: “While you’re lying in bed, the winner is out training.”
Do you have a rugby or sporting role model?
Role model would be Black Ferrns 7s captain Sarah Goss - because I’m inspired by her leadership, values and workrate on and off the field.
What are your favourite and least favourite subjects at school?
I like all of my subjects and school but the one that would stand out would be art because I can get creative.
What do you like to eat?
Burger fuel hands down.
Favourite holiday destination?
Rarotonga - because it relaxing and I love all their fresh smoothies.
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