Mental fortitude is one of the great modern-day sporting quests. In recent times, no-one has mastered this more than the Black Ferns sevens team.

In isolation their extra-time triumph at the Commonwealth Games, the most dramatic victory you could hope to witness, may be labelled a one-off.

Only, this team backed that up seven days later by claiming the Japanese leg of the women's World Series, beating Australia in the semifinal in circumstances similar to the finale at the Gold Coast Games.

This time, Tyla Nathan-Wong's try 90 seconds from full-time broke the 12-12 deadlock.


Twice in one week, the Black Ferns sevens showed others such as the Blues and Silver Ferns how to grasp composure and calmness under intense pressure.

With the short turnaround, lesser teams would have buckled under the fatigue, let alone the challenge of coming down from the Games high.

Reminiscing for a moment, Black Ferns' success at the Games cannot be understated.

Everything was against them. They lost Ruby Tui to the mumps and Nathan-Wong went down in the warm-up just prior to the final. Playing Australia, the nemesis in their backyard, the Black Ferns refused to bow to adversity.

That they lost the final of the Sydney tournament 31-0 to Australia in January made the achievement even more memorable. All this before your consider the mental scars lingering from defeat to… yes, Australia, in the Olympic Games gold medal match.

Clearly, a stronger mental resolve has been ingrained since.

The All Blacks are rightly celebrated for their numerous last-gasp victories. Dublin and Ryan Crotty's match-winner which secured the first unbeaten season in the professional era is widely recounted. But there have been many such instances in Johannesburg, Sydney and the like.

How quickly we forget last year the All Blacks could easily have lost the Bledisloe Cup but for Beauden Barrett's try minutes from time in Dunedin.


These great comebacks offer prime examples of sticking to the task and not being overawed by scoreboard pressure, no matter what the timepiece says.

The Blacks Ferns celebrate after winning the Gold Medal Match against Australia. Photo / Photosport
The Blacks Ferns celebrate after winning the Gold Medal Match against Australia. Photo / Photosport

And so in light of the Black Ferns sevens' recent performances, these women deserve the same recognition.

Niall Williams' try-saving tackle and Kelly Brazier's match-winner in the Games final don't happen by chance. Japan also proved this was no fluke.

Gilbert Enoka is credited for giving the All Blacks the tools to stay in the moment and not be consumed by pressure. This is achieved through devising individual reminders such as stamping feet or rubbing hands together to switch from red (pressure) to blue (calm) heads.

This year the Black Ferns are understood to have utilised the services Hamilton-based clinical psychologist Dom Vettise, but only on a part-time basis.

Making direct comparisons is always difficult but, given their recent success at overcoming significant mental burdens, the Blues could do worse than attempting to tap into the Black Ferns' transformation.

Even before the height of their injury crisis the Blues had several mental blocks – getting over New Zealand opposition just one.

Superb leader Sarah Goss, and the tight-knit bond this Black Ferns sevens team share, should be embraced. The Blues and Silver Ferns, a team at their lowest ebb, may benefit from simply rubbing shoulders with others outside their downcast bubble.

A visit to the Warriors from All Blacks captain Kieran Read brought about the in-game breathing exercise used during their best start to an NRL season in history.

What's to say the Black Ferns don't have valuable insights they could now share, too.

For the Blues, seeking advice from female counterparts would involve leaving egos at the door.

Blues chief executive Michael Redman, in the process of throwing his support behind Tana Umaga last week, said he reached out to the Warriors for guidance prior to their 50-10 loss to the Storm.

Extending an invite to Portia Woodman and company sure can't hurt.

At the elite level even marginal gains in the mental department make all the difference.

Look no further than the Black Ferns sevens for proof.

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