In 2017, rising rugby player Luka Connor had to undergo knee reconstruction. She was out of action in 2018 rehabilitating herself. After plenty of hard work, the 22-year-old former Waikite Rugby Club player earned a Black Ferns contract. Connor is this week's Behind the Name profile - a regular feature showcases the Bay of Plenty's talented athletes representing New Zealand internationally. Today, we find out a little bit more about Connor - a jokester whose athletic ability goes beyond rugby.
Do you have any nicknames?
"Manuka - this was my college rugby team nickname as one of our supporters just started yelling it on the sideline every game and it stuck."
What is the first memory you have of rugby?
"First memory is playing in the interschool competition being the only girl in the whole competition and playing against all the boys who tried to do things to me like pull my shirt over my head and poked my eyes lol. This made me more wise."
What is it that you love about rugby?
"I love playing rugby because it is physical and you can really prove yourself on a rugby field. There is no hiding. It's really fun once you get the hang of it."
What is your sporting highlight so far?
"Captaining my Ōpōtiki College girls to 15s and 7s BOP titles, also coming third at NZ Condors and making the NZ Tournament Team. These were the highest achievements you could reach and I have always liked to push to achieve the best we/I could."
What has been the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you on the field?
"Don't really have one, but playing a first XV game and running along and I passed the ball to who I thought was my winger was actually the opposition returning to her side, so I passed it and had to run over and pick it up again."
What has been the biggest injury suffered on the field?
"In 2015 I tore my plantar fascia which was a big one, but definitely 2017 - my knee reconstruction (ruptured ACL and meniscus) that I have recently returned to rugby from."
What is the best advice you have been given when it comes to playing rugby and who gave it to you?
"Get out there and go hard (but in more colourful words), Dad and Mum."
If you weren't playing rugby what would you be doing?
"Definitely be back home in Ōpōtiki and probably working with my dad in the shearing sheds."
When you're not playing or training, what are you doing?
"Going back home any chance I can, and being around my family, animals or going hunting, or riding motorbikes. If I have to stay in the city, then I'm just preparing for trainings really."
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Who is your favourite athlete?
"Kayla McAlister ex-NZ 7s, she is an amazing rugby player, determined and hard-driven. One of the best players in the world, I love watching her play."
What was your very first job and what other jobs have you had in your lifetime?
"Working in the shearing sheds as my dad is a shearer and has his own gang, so all my life I have worked and been around shearing. Also, lots of babysitting for my neighbour Donna. My first job in they city was working at a liquor store as a cashier."
What did your parents want you to be when you were younger?
"They wanted me to become a physiotherapist or doctor as that's what I was interested in at the time."
What is something you would tell your 16-year-old self?
"Keep working hard no matter how many challenges you come across. At the end of the day the only people who matter is your family because they will be there through thick and thin, in both the tough times and the glorious times."
What has been your biggest personal achievement and why?
"Moving away from home to try and achieve my goals five years ago was a real challenge as I love home. Another big achievement for me is coming back from injury which was a very dark time, to this year being named a contracted Black Fern and recently being named in the squad for USA series."
What five words do you think your closest friends would use to describe you?
"Straight up, outgoing, determined, jokester, passionate."
Where is your favourite place in the Bay and why?
"One hundred per cent Ōpōtiki [is the] best place in the world to me. I absolutely love my home and upbringing. I have the best of both worlds when I'm at home, the beach in the front and bush up the back - both provide kai for the family. There is always something to do at home like swimming, riding motorbikes, hunting, diving, fishing, or just chilling with the animals. There's no place like home."
Tell us three things people may not know about you:
"My three brothers and I are all exactly two weeks apart in birthdays over August and September.
BOP senior girls discus champion and I hold my college's record.
North Island taekwondo champion."