Hinemoa Watene has recently been selected in the New Zealand U18 Sevens team going to the Youth Olympic Games in Argentina in October.
The Howick College player has already played a season of rugby for the Auckland Storm in the Women’s NPC competition and is currently playing for the competition-leading College Rifles Thunderbirds in Auckland club rugby.
Read about Hinemoa’s sporting and rugby journey below:
School: Howick College
Year at school: 13
Iwi: Nga Puhi Nui Tonu/Rongowhakaata
What positions do you play in both sevens and 15s rugby?
In sevens I play either hooker or working prop and in 15s I play fullback.
What previous regional or national representative rugby teams have you played in?
I have played in the women’s Auckland Storm (15s), Auckland Women’s sevens, Auckland U18s sevens, Auckland U18’s 15s and the New Zealand U18s Sydney sevens qualifier.
How long have you been playing rugby, and how did you start playing?
I have been playing Rugby sevens since year 9 at Howick College. I started playing because I was always interested in rugby and when my school sports manager said that she was entering a sevens team into the Condors tournament I was really excited to try it out. I started playing 15s for the College Rifles club in 2015 as our school does not have a first 15s team – yet.
What is an early memory of watching or being around rugby when you were younger?
I remember playing my first ever rugby game in primary school and I was a lock. It was really scary and nerve racking at first as I was the only girl playing a bunch of boys that were twice my size. But I just decided to get stuck into it and managed to score my first try in the corner.
You are going to the Youth Olympics in October – tell us about your reaction to being selected in this team?
When I got the email I was just blown away, I just couldn’t believe it. But then reality really hit when my coach Knocky called me. That just solidified the fact that I was selected for the team and I was just crying, my parents were crying and it was just a very memorable moment. After missing out on the first round at the World Schools Condors sevens I didn’t want that to be the end. I kept on working hard and decided that I was going to get there. I wrote down on this torn up piece of paper, (which I have pinned to my noticeboard), that I was going to make the U18 sevens team in the next round of selections. Every training that I went to I made the most of that to reach my goal, and it paid off in the end. Now it is about working even harder to make sure I am fitter, stronger and better than what I was before heading into the Youth Olympics.
What rugby are you currently playing?
I am currently playing for my club, College Rifles, in the Women’s Premier team called the Thunderbirds, and we are sitting at the top of our pool at the moment. Our team has always been strong and I credit the hard work of the girls and the management team for where we are now. I am looking to play for the Auckland Women’s team again for the remainder of the winter Rugby season and also the Auckland Storm team.
What has been a memorable moment or a highlight for you in your rugby career so far?
A memorable moment for me would definitely have to be winning over in Sydney with my sevens sisters to qualify for the Youth Olympics. Once that final whistle went I just could not believe it. We were all crying and jumping up and down and I was just blown away. Having my parents and my brother there really made it a moment that I will treasure for the rest of my life.
Who have been your rugby mentors and people to thank so far?
I really want to thank my parents for taking me to my trainings, my games and for always being there through thick and thin. They have always been firm believers in my ability even when I doubted myself. Every day I look to give back to them by working twice as hard, whether it’s in the field or in the classroom. Without them I would not be the person I am today, or even be here for that matter. I also want to give a big thank you to my Howick college coaches, Adelita Sotutu and Rocky Khan. Without these guys I probably would have never picked up a rugby ball again after primary. I’m really appreciative of all of the work these two put in for my team and also the amount of support they have shown me over these past few years at Howick. Each year I am always looking forward to playing as I know I have these two in my corner supporting myself and my team mates.
What other sports do you play?
I used to play touch rugby at Nationals level and currently play football for school. A highlight for me in football would definitely be qualifying for Nationals this year. This is so huge because our school is not really known for football and to actually get the opportunity to represent my school at the highest level of college sport is just surreal and I’m excited for how things will pan out for the season.
Do you have any pre-game rituals that you do when preparing?
The night before I always pack my bag and lay my uniform out. I also need to listen to this one song that gets me focused, before I leave the house.
Do you have a motto or a favourite quote?
There is this Maori whakatauki that has stuck with me since beginning college which is “Okea Ururoatia.” Which translates to fighting like a shark or in other words to be tenacious in the pursuit of your goals. How I perceive this whakatauki is that if you really want something you need to fight for it, no matter how hard times get you need to fight for what you want otherwise is it really worth it?
Do you have a rugby or sporting role model?
My number one sporting role model would definitely have to be ex Black Ferns halfback Emma Jensen. Emma plays for College Rifles and I have been fortunate to play, train and learn from EJ who is is the epitome of hard work, humility and dedication. She inspires me everyday to keep chasing my dreams and to consistently work hard all the time.
What are your favourite and least favourite subjects at school?
My most favourites are Physical Education and History and my least favourite is definitely Statistics.
My most favourite food would definitely have to be seafood and my mums famous macaroni and cheese.
Favourite holiday destination?
My favourite holiday destination is Gisborne during the summer time because that’s where the best beaches in New Zealand are, and also my Nan who lives in Manutuke, Gisborne.
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