In recent years, the Black Ferns Sevens players have become household names as they achieved success at the highest level. This weekend, a handful of them are going back to where it all began. David Beck reports.
Last year, Kelly Brazier was helping the Black Ferns Sevens to their fifth Women's Sevens Series title. This weekend, she will run out for Rangataua in the Baywide Women's Premier Rugby Championship.
And she could not be more excited.
With Covid-19 meaning the Olympics' current Sevens World Series is postponed, Brazier is one of six Black Ferns Sevens players lining up for club teams in the Baywide competition, which kicks off tomorrow, and she said it was an experience filled with nostalgia.
"I can't wait," Brazier said.
"I haven't played [club rugby] since before the last world cup which was in 2017 so I'm really excited to get back to the grassroots, that's where it all started for me.
"It's been cool even just being at trainings, heaps of the young girls' faces sort of light up when you show up at training, it's been wicked. It takes me back to when I was young and I remember Black Ferns coming to training - I was sort of star-struck. If I can do that role, offer some of my experience and answer their questions, that's a positive for me.
"It's funny, I can't remember the last time I trained at 6pm in the pouring rain. Even the other night we weren't quite finished but the lights flicked off so that was training done. It takes you back to those memories, that sort of thing obviously doesn't happen in our sevens environment."
Brazier, who has played 172 games, scored 86 tries and kicked 43 conversions for the Black Ferns Sevens, said she would most likely slot in at first five for Rangataua.
"It's a bit of a direction role, helping out the young girls around me. Obviously, it's a game of territory and winning the small battles, whereas in sevens there's so much space and the game's over in 14 minutes. I'll just be looking to control the game, play in the right parts of the field and bank points when we get there.
"[The Baywide women's competition] is getting massive and the level of play is so much better than when I first played for Arataki. It's cool to see how much the women's game is growing here in the Bay."
Her Black Ferns Sevens teammate Mahina Paul will also play for Rangataua, Michaela Blyde will be in action for defending champions Rangiuru and Mount Maunganui have secured the services of Alena Saili, Tenika Willison and Cheyelle Robins-Reti.
While the postponement of Black Ferns Sevens 2020 schedule was disappointing at first, Brazier said there were silver linings, one of those being quality time spent with family.
"For the Olympics to be cancelled, I was gutted, it wasn't the best news. But for me and my partner, we have a 4-month-old baby now so I've been able to spend a lot of time with him that I wouldn't get to otherwise. It's a bit of a blessing in disguise in that way.
"There were also quite a few girls coming back from injury who were battling against time and might not have been at their very best, so now we have another 12 months to go hard and work on little things, we'll hopefully be that much better for it."
Rangataua, Rangiuru and Mount Maunganui are joined in the women's competition by Waimana, Rotoiti and newcomers Te Teko and Ōpōtiki.
Bay of Plenty Rugby Union women's development officer Kendra Reynolds said there was a lot of excitement around the competition getting under way.
"I'm excited to see how Mount Maunganui go this season after a good first year last year. They've picked up a few Rangiuru players and those Black Ferns Sevens who will be really good for them with their experience, they'll help the other players in the team shine.
"Having Te Teko and Ōpōtiki joining the competition is great too. It's really exciting, those Western Bay teams with the Black Ferns are going to be electric and I think the Central and Eastern Bay teams will be really excited to play against them as well. I really hope it attracts some more supporters to the games, I know a lot of the young girls I deal with through work are really excited to come out and see those girls play for club teams."
Baywide Premier Women's Draw - Round One
(Kickoff Sunday 1pm)
Ōpōtiki v Mount Maunganui at War Memorial Park, Ōpōtiki
Te Teko v Rangataua at Dunderdale Park, Te Teko
Rotoiti v Waimana at Emery Park, Rotoiti
Rangiuru - Bye