All top sportspeople make sacrifices, but it's hard to imagine many making them to the same degree as Kiwis Ferns forward Krystal Rota.

Rota, who was one of the standout players in the Ferns' impressive 26-16 win over Australia in Newcastle on Friday night, estimates she has spent nine months in hospital over the last two years.

Her two year-old daughter Nikayla was born with a serious kidney condition, which requires her to spend long periods of time in hospital.

Despite this, Rota has kept up her sporting career, often training by herself in a field near the hospital.


"To be fair, I don't know how she does it," said coach Alan Jackson. "When her daughter is sleeping, she goes and trains at Cornwall Park, runs through One Tree Hill. What she is doing is pretty exceptional."

Rota is one of six mothers in the current Ferns squad but has the toughest load.

"Day-to-day stuff with a baby is quite demanding anyway but all of the hospital time - doctors, medicines and machines - it's pretty hard," said Rota. "But when you are so passionate about something, you do what you have to do. It is very hard to make the time and early mornings and very late nights is often the only way I can do it."

During the time when she spends weeks - or months - at a time in hospital, Rota relies on the compassion of staff to keep up some kind of training schedule.

"The nurses are great," said Rota. "I'll go for a run and they'll watch baby. I've always got my phone if they need to call."

Rota was always destined to play league, although not all of her family agreed. Her father Roger was a skilful centre in the great Otahuhu teams of the early 1980s, who enjoyed battles with Mt Albert and Manukau.

"I've got a lot of cousins but none of them play. My aunties didn't want them to," said Rota. "But Dad always encouraged me."

Rota played in the 2015 Auckland Nines and the corresponding fixture in the representative weekend last year before taking time off the sport for her own surgery - to repair a major hernia she suffered during childbirth. Since then she has worked hard to get back in the team, and rewarded Jackson's faith with an 80-minute display on Friday night.

"She missed trainings and a few things because her daughter is in hospital but, if you look at [Friday night], she was one of the fittest players on the field," said Jackson. "She is superfit, does everything she can but does it around her daughter. She's a special person. She always puts her daughter first and we understand that, we have no problems with that, but she never lets us down."

Rota added: "It's been very hard at times but I am a very driven person. If you want something you have to go for it."