The Wakatipu women's rugby team got their pre-season off to the best possible start, rubbing shoulders with some of the country’s best, as members of the Black Ferns took part in their first session of the year.
In Queenstown for a training camp, Joanah Ngan-Woo, Amy Rule, Alana Bremner, Patricia Maliepo and Georgia Ponsonby shared their stories and tips with the Wakatipu women.
Wakatipu women's coach Grant Scannell said, as expected, the news of the Black Ferns being in town meant there was a strong showing at the preseason training session.
"As soon as we mentioned the Black Ferns were coming, we had an influx of players. Usually at this time of year a lot of players are still involved in summer sports, but we had everyone show up, including some new faces," said Scannell.
The women's team started five years ago, initially playing 10-a-side but now with enough players for XVs. Scannell said at the start of Covid in 2020 they lost several international players who returned offshore but have since bolstered their numbers.
"The culture we have is awesome. I always say, it's not about your ability – we can teach that. It's about the culture and enjoying what we are doing," said Scannell.
And last Wednesday was certainly enjoyable. Rubbing shoulders with the Black Ferns and hearing some stories before learning some tricks of the trade.
"It showed our players there is a pathway. Especially hearing from Amy (Rule) who is a Riverton girl, she told her story, a girl from Southland who is now in the Black Ferns. Our girls got the biggest buzz from that.
"The players were smiling from ear to ear, there were lots of laughs and the hype is totally still there," said Scannell.
It wasn't just the club players that got a buzz from the session. 21-year-old Black Fern Amy Rule relished the opportunity to give back.
"Queenstown was one of the places I played at quite often when I first got into the game, so going back for Black Ferns camp definitely brought back some great memories.
"Getting the opportunity to interact with the women's club was awesome and reminded me of why I fell in love with game. The girls were all wanting to give everything a go had such exciting energy.
"It was awesome talking to some of the girls and hearing about their club competition and how much it had grown since I left Invercargill. We used to only have a short 3-4 week competition or one-day tournaments and now they have six or seven teams from towns between Queenstown and Invercargill. It's pretty exciting to see how much the game has grown in such a small community," said Rule.
The Wakatipu women continue their pre-season training before the Southland club season begins in April.