Kelsie Wills. Charmaine Smith. Portia Woodman.

These talented athletes have more than rugby in common. They've also found rugby after playing other sports.

Woodman, a Tauranga-based Black Ferns Sevens and 15s player/World Rugby Women's Player of the Year recipient found the sport while contracted for the Northern Mystics in 2012. Smith is a former Northland representative netballer who is now an integral part of New Zealand's women's rugby team, the Black Ferns.

And Wills, a 2018 Commonwealth Games beach volleyballer, played her first game of 15s rugby this year after giving the sevens and 10s formats a go at the end of last year. She was part of the Mount Maunganui Sports team in this year's Baywide Women's club rugby competition before being selected as part of the 2019 Bay of Plenty women's representative rugby team, the Volcanix, in their 2019 Farah Palmer Cup campaign, also winning Bay of Plenty Rugby's DVS Volcanix Forward of the Year Award.


So it's no surprise Bay of Plenty Rugby Union are keen to find out what other female athletes are in the region, who have potentially entertained the idea of giving rugby a go.

The union is holding a Pathway to Women's High Performance Rugby on November 3 for those interested in finding out more about the programme to attend the session to see if it was something they wanted to pursue.

The union's women's player development manager Les Elder knows all about high performance rugby. She's captain of the Black Ferns, making her debut with the squad in 2015, and co-captain of this year's Bay of Plenty Volcanix team, which finished their campaign earlier this month. She also knows about playing getting into rugby after playing other sports, also playing netball, touch, cricket and basketball growing up.

She said they were now looking at what their programme for next year and trying to identify who would be part of it, beyond the traditional means of only recruiting players from representative rugby teams.

"We're starting to look ahead into 2020 and what that looks like so we're starting to put together our women's high performance programme for 2020 and part of that process is to identify the athletes that we want to have involved in the programme," Elder said.

Bay of Plenty Volcanix after beating Waikato in the round 4 Farah Palmer Cup clash. Photo / Getty Images
Bay of Plenty Volcanix after beating Waikato in the round 4 Farah Palmer Cup clash. Photo / Getty Images

"We're doing it differently this year for next year. We've actually made it an open invitation because we just don't know enough about who's out there that's wanting to play, especially females from other sports. So we've created a Pathway to Women's High Performance Rugby day, which is open to all new athletes wanting to give rugby at this level a go," she said.

She said the pathway event was a way to open the doors to more athletes, without the selection process being made by one or two people.

"If you're just leaving it to what we see and who we know then a lot of girls can actually miss out and we don't want to have that issue and that's why we're opening it up, and it allows I think a larger market to see what we're actually doing here so it raises awareness in the community but it also gives girls who may not have originally had the opportunity a chance to put their foot forward.


"We don't know who might come across or who might be in a stage of their life where they're considering another sport."

Although attending next month's pathway was not a guarantee of selection, Elder encouraged anyone interested to register by emailing her at

"I guess it's just an introduction really to give these ladies a bit of a taster into what the year involves and what it takes to be a high performance athlete at that level and then from there we can make decision on who we think is best suited for the environment."