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Hauraki Plains College girls mingled with girls from Rotorua Girls High School, and the Chiefs Manawa players and coach in an all-day inspiration and skills session. Photo: SUPPLIED

Hauraki Plains girls ruck in with Chiefs Manawa

It was the opportunity of a lifetime for the girls of Hauraki Plains College’s rugby teams, as they took to the field with players from the Chiefs Manawa squad on May 28.

Twenty-two of the college’s aspiring female rugby players were invited to train with members of the squad, after winning a place on the 2degrees womentorship programme. They ranged in age from 13 to 17.

Students across the country were invited to apply for the programme, an initiative by the telecommunications company aiming to support women’s rugby and inspire young wāhine [women].

A whopping 18 individual entries were received from Hauraki Plains College (HPC), a number which did not go unnoticed by the selection committee.

“Sounds like it might have got us across the line, the 18 entries from HPC,” HPC assistant coach Angela Forsyth said.

“I think maybe it [helped in our favour] – obviously in that sense the girls were quite keen on getting selected.”

“We received over 150 heart-tugging entries, each of them as worthy as the others, and wish we could have given each and every one a day with their sporting idols,” 2degrees head of sponsorship Anna Gorman said.

The HPC students, along with winners from Rotorua Girls High School, spent the day in the company of No 8 Kennedy Simon, lock Chelsea Bremner, hooker Luka Connor and Chiefs Manawa coach Crystal Kaua.

“It’s such a neat opportunity for our girls,” Angela said.

“We don’t tend to see high-profile athletes, especially women athletes, too often.”

The all-day affair took place at the Chiefs Manawa team’s home ground in Hamilton.

The girls received VIP treatment, with a chartered bus service, and provided meals.

“The players talked about how nutrition’s really important and so that was really good for them to hear, and that was also being backed up in terms of what they were [fed],” Angela said.

The day began with a morning panel, where the students asked questions, talked about their goals and aspirations both on and off the field, and worked on mental preparation tips for game days.

“It was a great opportunity for our girls to listen to the journey that the players had been on, what a typical training day might be for them, how they’ve gotten to where they’ve gotten, some of their backgrounds in terms of their early rugby days, and how far they had to go to travel to train or to play schoolgirl or club rugby,” Angela said.

After lunch it was time for practice – and the girls were put through their paces in a series of drills and skills activities, followed by a friendly game.

“I think the girls felt quite privileged to have that opportunity to have gone and spent the day over there and to rub shoulders with some stars of the game,” Angela said.

“[The players] were fantastic. They were just constantly interacting with the girls when they could, very approachable, happy and willing to have photos at the end of the day.”

Angela said the programme was a valuable experience for all the girls, whether they were planning on pursuing a career in rugby or not.

“The effort and passion throughout the day was just really cool and really evident for the girls to see,” she said.

“Womentorship just says it all, they certainly role-modelled.

“If you get a couple of girls inspired by the day I think that’s a win, isn’t it?”

By ALICE PARMINTER, Public Interest Journalism funded by NZ on Air