Rugby star Portia Woodman rues netball instinct in Olympic final

By Kristin Edge

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New Zealand's Portia Woodman jumps a tackle to score a try against Australia in the Women's Sevens Gold medal final. Photo / Photosport
New Zealand's Portia Woodman jumps a tackle to score a try against Australia in the Women's Sevens Gold medal final. Photo / Photosport

Olympic silver medallist Portia Woodman reckons it was netball instincts that made her try to intercept a ball which saw her sin binned during the gold medal match against arch rivals Australia.

Woodman crossed for a tournament-leading 10th try in Rio after the final hooter had sounded yesterday, but it was not enough to beat the Aussies who took the golden spoils 24-17 in the women's rugby sevens.

It won't temper the disappointment, but Kiwi athletes who win a silver medal will get a taxpayer-funded Performance Enhancement Grant of $55,000.

Gold medallists will receive $60,000. The funding is available for each athlete who earns a medal, meaning the 12 members of the women's sevens side will collectively get $660,000.

Yesterday, only seconds before half time, the referee showed Woodman a yellow card after deeming she had deliberately knocked the ball on. The Australians capitalised and scored on the stroke of half time.

And the Aussies struck again early in the second half with the Kiwis still a player down. Notching up 12 points while the New Zealanders were down a player was enough to put the win out of the Kiwis' reach.

Woodman said it was netball genes that made her try to snatch the ball as it was passed from one opposition player to another.

"You see a ball going flying past and you want to get it. I think it's those netball genes," Woodman said.

"I was trying to get the ball ... it wasn't intentional at all but it was a critical mistake."

Overall, she said, the team had done an awesome job and praised the winning performance of the Australians.

"It's an awesome feeling to have a silver medal and it's a huge achievement for the New Zealand women's sevens team - but, of course, it's not the medal we came for."

The disappointment was obvious as Woodman collapsed in tears on the field after the final whistle. During the medal ceremony the Kiwis received a massive cheer from their supporters in the stands including members of the Woodman whanau who had travelled from Northland.

"It was awesome having them here on the other side of the world to support me," Woodman said.

Watching the final at the Tote and Poke in Whangarei were workmates Gary Loughnan and Roger "Rocket" Turner.

They were vocal in their support with both believing the Kiwi side had what it took to win gold.

They listened to the first few minutes on the car radio before making it to the pub.

"It was a good contest but once we lost that player, that's when the damage was done," Mr Loughnan said. He thought Woodman's sin binning was a bit harsh and said her reaction had been instinctive. Mr Turner said the Australians were clinical in their game plan and were a good side.

- Northern Advocate

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