There are few people in the Bay of Plenty more passionate or knowledgeable about women's rugby than Lesley Elder.

Not only does the 31-year-old star for the Black Ferns and Bay of Plenty Volcanix as a player, she is also the Bay of Plenty Rugby women's development officer.

Tomorrow, Elder and her Volcanix teammates host Waikato - the team Elder made her provincial debut for in 2004 - in Matata.

This weekend is not the first time she will line up against her old team, last year she made her Volcanix debut in a 19-17 loss to Waikato - the first of three games she played for Bay of Plenty last year.


"It was really hard, it was even hard just to put on these new colours because I'd been born and bred in Waikato and that's all I'd played for. Coming across, I knew it was going to be a bit hard, but I understood why I was playing and it was a bit bigger than just the colours you wear on your back, so I got over it pretty quickly.

"Standing in front of the Waikato girls as they do their haka, it gets you hyped up to play, that's for sure."

Last week the Volcanix faced a harsh introduction to the Farah Palmer Cup Premiership, having been promoted from the Championship, losing 55-5 to defending champions Canterbury in Tauranga. They haven't beaten Waikato since 1999, but Elder said her side took a lot of positives from last week's loss.

"We did actually put together great phases of play and definitely had a really good gain line from our forwards and their carries. The opportunities were there, we just didn't execute or exploit them.

Lesley Elder is thriving in her role as Bay of Plenty Rugby women's development officer. Photo / File
Lesley Elder is thriving in her role as Bay of Plenty Rugby women's development officer. Photo / File

"I guess what's exciting is that we know we can create opportunities, it's just about pulling it all together. For us, it was just about going back to basics a bit, getting some clarity, and we're looking forward to the weekend."

Elder's own experiences in women's rugby and her role as women's development officer mean she views the game in a more overarching way than most.

"The move has come with lots of challenges, but what's exciting is the talent that is here in the Bay and being able to provide an opportunity for that talent to really be exposed.

"Everything I do has a bit of a greater picture to it, I'm thinking a little bit outside of just playing rugby and as much as I can I'm trying to influence those around me as well.


"It is exciting to see the game growing. I've played the game when all you got were hand-me-down jerseys that went down to your knees to now playing in games that are on TV.

"It's really cool to see where the game's going and exciting to see how much further it can go."

Elder said the most exciting thing about this year's Volcanix squad was the youth.

"We've got a really young backline - we've got girls in their first year out of school, their first time playing Farah Palmer Cup. We had a few debutants last week, so they bring a level of eagerness and excitement, which is really good, especially for an old girl like myself."

She said taking games to places like Matata, which had a women's team entered in the Baywide competition for the first time this year, would do wonders for the sport.

"There's so much untouched talent out in the Eastern Bay of Plenty. So, to be able to take the game out there, showcase it a little bit and connect with our smaller communities is really important. We get to play after our under-18 girls which is really cool as well, connecting the two teams."

Bay of Plenty Volcanix v Waikato
Saturday, 2.45pm at Matata Rugby Club

Played: 8 (1999-2017). Bay of Plenty wins: 1, Waikato wins: 7
Last match: Waikato 19 Bay of Plenty 17 in Hamilton (2017)
Last Bay of Plenty win: Bay of Plenty 17 Waikato 13 (1999)
Biggest Bay of Plenty score: 17 (1999, 2002 and 2017)
Biggest Waikato score: 48 (2014)
Biggest differential: Waikato by 48 (48-0 in 2014)