When Michaela Blyde left Taranaki nearly three years ago to base herself at Mount Maunganui, she hoped the personal sacrifice moving away from family and friends would be worth it.

It has paid off in spades for the dynamic try scorer, with this year the absolute standout. Her 40 tries in the World Rugby Women's Sevens Series was the most by any player and helped New Zealand win five of the six tournaments and take out the title.

The 21-year-old's form and confidence have grown dramatically under head coach Allan Bunting.

Blyde said the move to be with coaches, trainers, teammates and the facilities at the high-performance centre at Mount Maunganui played a major role in her dramatic on-field improvement.


"I decided to move here to try and pursue my sevens career. It was a little difficult at home because I was training by myself and I didn't have anyone to compare myself with. So I thought I would make the big move from Taranaki and start growing my sevens career here," she said.

"It has been incredible having more than five girls training here and the coach and assistant coach, to help grow our skills. The Bay of Plenty union with the awesome high-performance centre facility has been able to help us grow as athletes."

Late last month, Blyde and teammate Ruby Tui were announced as finalists for the World Rugby's Women's Sevens Player of the Year award.

"It hasn't really hit me quite yet. I found out when everyone else did so it was just as surprising to me. This year was all about growing as a player. I have been in the squad for nearly six years now so I wanted to make all the tournament teams and grow as a leading player on and off the field," Blyde said.

"I am grateful for what has come my way but the girls around me on and off the field are definitely the reason why I have accomplished the goals that I have."

Black Ferns coach and Rotorua local Allan Bunting is delighted with Blyde and Tui being nominated for the award. He is happy overall with the depth of talent across the wider squad.

"There is really good competition for places in tournaments now so the key is to make sure we take everyone with us on the journey and not leave anyone behind."

Bunting is looking forward to the start of another world series to come at the end of this month in Dubai. But since the disappointment of losing the final in Rio, the major goal has been building for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

"For us, it is not just about this year but an opportunity to keep building our foundations for Tokyo. We still have that in the back of our minds and are making sure we are doing everything we can to prepare for that.

"We also have Comm Games next year so we need to be the best we can at that stage without thinking about the bigger goal in the background. All the other countries are full-time professionals with centralised programmes who are training to try and beat us."