Women's rugby as a whole is in a state of constant change. The growth of the game in the last decade has been phenomenal and the powers that be must do everything they can to
continue building on that momentum. The Bay of Plenty Rugby Union is well aware of this and on Sunday ran a Pathway to Women's High Performance Rugby in Rotorua for women interested in finding out more about the high performance programme. Sports reporter David Beck went along to find out more.READ MORE:
• Premium - Black Ferns captain Les Elder - businesswoman, athlete, leader, rodeo rider
• Black Ferns captain Les Elder, Steamers' Chase Tiatia, Te Puna Rugby Club big Bay rugby winners
• Rugby: Richie McCaw and Maxine Ketu - two of the many people who inspire Black Ferns captain Les Elder
• Rugby: Bay players boost Black Ferns squad and Les Elder named as new captain
Sarah Hockley has always been competitive.
She has a background in athletics as a 400m sprinter, played her first season of rugby league for the Putauaki Stags this year and has dipped her toe in the rugby union pond.
But after Sunday, she's more eager than ever to give rugby a real crack.
The Kawerau woman was one of about eight who answered Bay of Plenty Rugby Union's call for women interested in being part of their high performance programme next season, attending a Pathway to Women's High Performance Rugby session at Rotorua International Stadium.
Through the event those women, some who play rugby already and others who have entertained the thought of giving it a go, were given an introduction to high performance.
Leading the day was Black Ferns captain Les Elder, in her role as Bay of Plenty Rugby Union women's player development manager. Hockley left the session wanting more.
"[Elder] was so inspiring and everyone who talked to us was so passionate about rugby, it totally opened a whole different window for me. It really made me want to follow through with my rugby more."
Hockley said the pathways now available for women in rugby provided good motivation.
"The women are doing so well at the moment and it's really exciting, especially now that they're putting out these adverts for ladies to have the opportunity to go to these things. It's really inspiring for people like myself who are just starting."
"I've started being interested in rugby sevens and now 15s and a few people had seen the post about this and said I should give it a go. I thought 'why not' and it was absolutely amazing," Hockey said.
Elder says a lot has changed since she started in the sport and she is excited by the moves being made to grow women's rugby in the region.
"It's changed dramatically. You used to be able to just sort of rock up to trials and then once you're in you'd work pretty hard.
"Now, we're running open days and invitations to check out what we're doing with six staff from Bay of Plenty Rugby here to try to help grow this. It's exciting, especially for me who's been around for a long time and probably coming to the end of my playing career, to see the opportunities available for young girls coming through," she said.
She said Sunday's Pathway to Women's High Performance Rugby was about sharing some insight into their programme, describing it as "lifestyle commitment". She said it was also about gauging the talent in the region and across the country, with some coming up from Wellington to be part of it.
"It's a pretty busy schedule ... We train four mornings a week, that's both on the field and in the gym, so firstly you have to be committed to that.
"The most important thing is you need to have a purpose to why you want to pursue this kind of lifestyle and playing at the highest level because it's not easy and often when you get tested, you fall back on why you do it."
Joining a high performance programme would not only help women develop their game but also teach valuable life skills.
"Not only in rugby are you probably going to become a better rugby player, if that means you go on to represent Bay of Plenty Women's Sevens or Bay of Plenty Volcanix or even go higher to Black Ferns Sevens or Black Ferns - those are the measurables in rugby and that's up to the individual.
"There's also a lot of growth that you can take away in life, you're learning life skills, you're learning about yourself, learning how to work as a team, all those sorts of things that just help you in life."
The attributes required to make the most of a high performance rugby programme - Les Elder
Be willing to work hard.
Know why you are doing it - what gets you up in the morning?
Be open minded, willing to learn and be challenged.
Persistence and dedication.