Tynealle Fitzgerald thought her chance had gone when she was named as a non-travelling reserve for the Oceania Under-18 Sevens Championship earlier this year.

But after that initial disappointment of not making the team to travel to Sydney for the Youth Olympics qualifiers, she went back to working hard and focusing on the positives.

The Rangiuru Sports Club player soon got a lucky break.

One of the New Zealand players named for Sydney was injured, which meant a call-up for Fitzgerald. She made use of the game time enough to impress the New Zealand selectors and last week was named in the 12-strong team to go to the Youth Olympics in Argentina in October.


Fitzgerald, 18, is still getting her head around being selected in the New Zealand team. The Toi Ohomai student, who grew up in the Eastern Bay, admits she was not expecting to make it.

"When I got the call I couldn't sleep. I was just so excited as I was not expecting it because we never had a trial. I didn't know what to say when they called. I was just blown away really," Fitzgerald said.

Making the final cut of 12 players in the first New Zealand sevens team to go to a Youth Olympics has been a goal for Fitzgerald since she found out about it last year.

"First I wanted to make the team for the Oceania Sevens team for Sydney but I was a non-travelling reserve for that so I was not meant to go. Once I found out I was a non-travelling reserve I was pretty gutted and I felt like I had no chance, but I just worked hard," she says.

"But because there was an injury I got to go to Sydney. I have tried my best to make this team and it happened. I am really excited for the big trip and everything, and just to represent New Zealand is going to be awesome."

Since the Oceania Sevens, Fitzgerald has been training with the Bay of Plenty Academy and has made use of the outstanding facilities at the University of Waikato Adams Centre for High Performance at Mount Maunganui.

"All the people there have really pushed me and helped me to reach my goal. I am training with Les Elder, who is a contracted Black Ferns player, and she is probably my idol. She is next level and I love it," Fitzgerald says.

"She has helped improve me. Plus, we have [Black Fern] Renee Wickliffe who comes in and trains with the academy girls sometimes so it is really cool to just see the others there.

"We have a big poster in the gym with the men's and women's teams from the Commonwealth Games together with their medals. So we get to look at that while we are training hard and wish it was you up there."

Fitzgerald rates Bay of Plenty's Ruby Tui as another player she would love to play alongside in black.

"Obviously my biggest goal would be to make the New Zealand women's team in either the fifteens or the sevens but I am just going to keep playing my hardest and see where I go really.

"There are a lot of talented girls out there."