Hands up if you thought talented Hawke's Bay women's sevens player Felicity Powdrell would be pulling on the colours of another province at this weekend's nationals in Rotorua.

You're not alone. I certainly did in the wake of her hot form for the winless Hawke's Bay Tuis 15s side in last year's Farah Palmer Cup.

Gutsy on defence and with pace to burn on attack, Powdrell, 21, often made breaks but lacked the necessary support because teammates were unable to keep up with her. Because of this it was easy for opposing teams' defensive systems to isolate her and force turnovers.

"I could have gone to some other provinces but I'm happy with the improvement taking place here in the Bay particularly in sevens which I prefer more than 15s," Powdrell said in the countdown to this weekend's Bayleys National Sevens in Rotorua.


Wairoa born-and-bred, Powdrell will appear at her second nationals after three seasons in the Tuis. Fans will find it hard to believe she only took up rugby during her Year 13 studies at Wairoa College.

"Because we live way out in Ruakituri I was home schooled until Year 13 so there was no Ross Shield play or anything like that for me," Powdrell said.

"I was really stoked with my form for the Tuis. As a team we could have got better results but we definitely improved and I just tried to better myself each time. I know I've got to work more on my vision which will improve with more experience ... I just love the game."

While the wing will be her main position this weekend she is happy to play halfback or hooker if required.

"I love the defence in sevens and I do most of the drop kicking at kick-off time. I know they have to be on point so it gives us a chance to get it back. I like to play with heart and leave a bit of myself out on the field," Powdrell said.

There's no doubt she does that and it's just as well she loves defence. Hawke's Bay are likely to be in defence mode for most of their first two pool games tomorrow against defending champions Counties-Manukau who boast Olympian Portia Woodman as their headline act and Auckland who beat the Bay 43-0 at last year's nationals.

"I can't wait to play Portia. Heaps of people are saying we're in for a tough time. I tell them it gives us an awesome challenge ... bring it on."

A New Zealand Universities Sevens rep who has graduated with a Diploma in Sport and Recreation at EIT and is about to start a three-year Bachelor of Sport and Recreation degree at EIT, Powdrell pointed out this year's Hawke's Bay sevens team has built from last year.

"We are a bit more experienced and there is a lot more effort and pain at trainings. Our third placing at regionals was an improvement from last year's fourth. We just have to keep building and keep improving and next year we should be a lot better ... watch this space."

Powdrell ranked her Taradale teammate Julie Ferguson-Ngawaka, 40, a multiple Aotearoa Maori Sevens rep who will captain Hawke's Bay this weekend, as her hero on the Bay sevens scene.

"I might be able to get close to her on the endurance stuff. But trying to keep up with her on the short sharp sprints is hard."

And her hero on the national sevens scene?

"Canterbury Olympian Ruby Tui. Her workrate is huge ... she works super hard off the ball."

A keen hunter and diver when she isn't training or playing rugby, Powdrell also loves music. Last year she wrote a song, For Us, for the Hawke's Bay sevens team's nationals campaign.

Expect it to get another airing this weekend.

Hawke's Bay co-coaches Joe Heather and Daniel Nukunuku have secured the services of Taranaki's Jessie Fowell and Manawatu 17-year-old Kalyn Takitumu-Cook as loan players. Heather stressed improving on last year's last placing is the Bay's main goal.

They are scheduled to play Counties-Manukau (10.25am), Auckland (12.45pm) and Southland (4.15pm) in pool play tomorrow.

"Obviously we will target Southland and then aim to build further on Sunday," Heather added before a team video session last night.

Twelve women's teams and 16 men's teams will be in action this weekend.

The Hawke's Bay women's team is: Felicity Powdrell, Niamh Jefferson, Teilah Ferguson, Julie Ferguson-Ngawaka, Kalyn Takitumu-Cook, Hope Hakopa, Marlane Harmer, Laurae Blake, Jessie Fowell, Shaylee Tipiwai, Sincerely Horne, Natasha-Dean Greville.