Les Elder is a fierce rugby player who respects the sport she loves. As the captain of the Black Ferns, the Tauranga-based athlete hits hard, puts her body on the line and leads by example. Her friends however know another side to the busy 32-year-old, describing her as loyal, honest, resilient, compassionate and fearless, while also giving her a flurry of nicknames along way. In today's Behind the Name, Kristin Macfarlane finds out more about the Rangataua and Bay of Plenty Volcanix rugby player who is about to travel to San Diego with her Black Ferns teammates to compete in the 2019 Women's Rugby Super Series. We also learn about the rodeo rider and businesswoman, whose pride for her family is undeniable.
Do you have any nicknames?
Well depends who you ask but my high school mates from Taumarunui would call me Weedle, my Aussie mates will call me Ketu Chips, my Waikato mates call me Ketu, my Black Ferns mates call me Mamaku and since being in the Bay it's Aunty
What is the first memory you have of rugby and how has that impacted your life?
Probably when I was about 10 and my dad was training my older brothers. I wanted to play and begged my dad to let me tackle my brother Steve. Dad wouldn't allow it because Steve was a giant but I begged.
He finally let Steve run it straight and all I remember was being on the ground winded and fighting for air. Steve is now 1.85m and more than 110kg so now I hit him when he's not looking.
What is it that you love about rugby?
I love the physical contest and contact area of the game. I love the way the game continuously evolves which challenges you to always grow and evolve your skill set. There's not a lot of sports you can play where you're face down in the mud, protecting your mates and putting your body on the line like that for your team, where you can hit your opposition as hard as you can and enjoy a beer with them afterwards. It's a special game.
What is your sporting highlight to date and why?
Playing Pa Wars with my mum and sister-in-law was so much fun. Representing King Country at a time that three of my brothers were all representing King Country was also really special for our family but obviously my debut for the Black Ferns was a special moment in my career and then winning the World Cup in 2017 was a feeling I get to replay forever.
What has been the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you on the field at any level?
I don't want anyone to know, haha.
What has been the biggest injury suffered on the field?
Broken tibia and fibula.
If you weren't playing rugby what would you be doing?
Learn to surf, play the guitar and speak te reo Maori.
Studying naturopathy and growing a side business (TheEverydayGirl) I own with my two girlfriends linking in my passion for sustainable fashion. Plus, coaching women's club rugby.
When you're not playing or training, what are you doing?
I'm spending time with friends and family, or back home on the farm disconnecting from the chaos of life.
Who is your favourite athlete in any code and level, and why?
Richie McCaw - first and foremost for his skill as a rugby player. Additional to that, his work ethic, commitment to the jersey, intelligence as a player and character as a person.
Sam Osborne - proving skills can be improved
What was your first job and what other jobs have you had?
At 13 years old my first job was as a cleaner which I kept right through high school. In the summer holidays, from 14 years, I started working as a wool handler in the shearing sheds. At 17 year, I left school and worked as a meat processor at a meat works. While a student at Waikato University I worked as a receptionist at a gym while bartending. I also worked part time at Stirling Sports and as a lifeguard.
Post university, I worked for the Queensland Police and then as a HR adviser for Restaurant Brands. I also worked as a business partner for SkyCity Hamilton before chucking in corporate life to work for Bay of Plenty Rugby.
What did your parents want you to be when you were younger?
Whatever I wanted to be and happy being the best version of that.
What is something you would tell your 16-year-old self?
To drop the attitude and be comfortable being me. To tell my parents that I love and appreciate them every day. To stop bullying my younger brother Kuru for being what I thought was "weird". It's his weirdness that makes him unique and what you're going to love the most about him, he will become your best friend.
What has been your biggest personal achievement and why?
Making my family proud and upholding mana through everything I do. Marrying my husband and travelling the world with him. Getting my university degree, buying a house, making lifelong friends, my achievements in rugby, there [are] so many things to be proud of in life and so many things yet to be achieved.
What five words do you think your closest friends would use to describe you?
I asked some of my best mates and they said "loyal, honest, resilient, compassionate, fearless". But then they also said BUSY.
Where is your favourite place in the Bay and why?
Little Big Markets on the first Saturday of the month in the Mount and anywhere on the beach.
Tell us three things people may not know about you:
I hate dots, clusters of dots freak me out.
I used to go to the local rodeo and ride calves and chase sheep, then when I was 15 I was really brave and rode a bull. I got winded immediately after they opened the chute.
I have two tattoos.
Women's Rugby Super Series 2019 in San Diego, USA:
Black Ferns v Canada, June 29.
Black Ferns v USA, July 3.
Black Ferns v France, July 7.
Black Ferns v England, July 15.