Three teenage rugby players will make the step out of the classroom and into professional rugby in 2019, with the Black Ferns Sevens squad announcement featuring the fresh faces of Jazmin Hotham, Mahina Paul and Montessa Tairakena.
The three players have finished their schooling and moved to the High Performance Sevens centre in Mt Maunganui as part of the 21-strong Black Ferns Sevens squad for 2019.
Coach Allan Bunting said the three teenagers have already impressed.
“They are three players with massive potential. We are looking towards Tokyo at the moment, but these are the sorts of players that can look towards the 2024 Olympics and beyond.
“All three were involved in the Youth Olympic Games set up which gives us more opportunities to see them play but more importantly give them the opportunity to get out on the field, to train and get quality coaching.
“We’ll look to develop them this year, we play a lot of in-house matches and that will be great experience for these players,” said Bunting.
Jazmin Hotham was involved in the Black Ferns Sevens set up in 2018 on a training contract and was originally named to captain the Youth Olympic Games sevens team before withdrawing due to injury.
Fellow Hamilton Girl’s High School graduate Montessa Tairakena captained the Hamilton Girls High 1st XV to a National title last September before starring in the gold medal-winning Youth Olympic Games team.
Mahina Paul, also a member of the Youth Olympic Games team, has previously represented New Zealand in touch. Originally from Whakatane, Paul completed her schooling at Saint Kentigern in Auckland.
With more than half of the squad under 24 years old it is balanced with some of the most experienced players in the women’s game.
Captain Sarah Hirini (nee Goss), Tyla Nathan-Wong, Kelly Brazier and Ruby Tui have played in every World Series since its inception in 2012. Hirini is the most capped player in the history of the Series.
“We have a great balance to the squad. There is a really good bunch of experienced players and now this younger group of new players that add real excitement to the mix.
“This year we need to qualify for Tokyo. We have started the season well but that just means more eyes are on us. The first focus is Hamilton, which is awesome for us to play at home for the first time and you can see all the players can’t wait to get there.”
Bunting said 2019 training contracts will be offered to players after this week’s development trial. Those players will be involved in the development team programme and train alongside the Black Ferns Sevens squad for 50 days throughout the year.
The Black Ferns Sevens squad is;
|Michaela Blyde||Bay of Plenty|
|Kelly Brazier||Bay of Plenty|
|Sarah Hirini (nee Goss)||Manawatu|
|Jazmin Hotham *||Waikato|
|Tyla Nathan Wong||Auckland|
|Mahina Paul*||Bay of Plenty|
|Terina Te Tamaki||Waikato|
|Ruby Tui||Bay of Plenty|
|Portia Woodman||Counties Manukau|