When it comes to busting a defensive line or halting an opposing midfield attack Hawke's Bay rugby player Deijah Tuliau thrives.
This week the MAC club's 13-year-old midfield back-winger will bust down a barrier or two when she becomes the first female to be inducted into the Hawke's Bay Rugby Academy since a then future world champion Black Fern Amy Williams and future Cook Islands Sevens rep Te Maari MacGregor had a two-season stint in 2005 and '06.
"It's pretty exciting. I hope to gain some good skills and a positive attitude," Tuliau said last night.
"I see the selection as a huge step towards my long-term goals of playing for the Hawke's Bay Tuis and the Black Ferns. If the opportunity to play for the New Zealand Women's Sevens team at an Olympic Games came along I would jump at that too," Tuliau said.
The Hastings Girls' High School Year 9 student who has played for the MAC club since she was 5 was a logical choice for the academy. Tuliau scored six tries in five games for the third-placed Hastings West team at last year's Ross Shield tournament in Hastings.
"That tournament was the highlight of my career to date," Tuliau recalled.
Along with her brother, flanker T-vahni Tuliau, Tuliau, was one half of the first set of unisex twins to be selected for the tournament. Tuliau said her brother had no qualms about her getting the jump on him in terms of provincial honours.
"I showed T-vahni my letter of congratulations and he was really supportive."
A former Hastings West D and C grade rep, Tuliau, praised the coaching she has received from her father Sanele "Narley" Tuliau and uncle Vili Malaitai who are both long-time premier club players. When she isn't training or playing rugby Tuliau is likely to be found playing basketball, netball or touch.
During a stint in Australia two years ago she was on the verge of state selection in touch.
A big fan of retired All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, Tuliau has yet to decide on a career option out of rugby at this stage.
"For the moment professional rugby player sounds pretty good."
She is already making the necessary sacrifices in the nutrition department.
"There is a big emphasis on vegetables at the moment," she added.
Hawke's Bay Rugby Union's talent development co-ordinator, former Magpies captain Jason Shoemark, said Tuliau will be inducted into the academy's year one group.
"Like all players she will be assessed at the end of the year when a decision will be made on whether or not Deijah will return with the year two intake. We're hoping she completes four years at least."
Shoemark pointed out her selection is part of the union's plans to boost the profile of women's rugby in the Bay and lift the standards of potential future Tuis.
"Deijah was outstanding at last year's Ross Shield tournament and we have no doubt she has enormous potential."