Cortez Te Pou doesn't play for a senior rugby club but that doesn't mean the schoolgirl is poorer for it.
That's because Te Pou has built her template from the time she was sixth grader at Frimley School playing alongside and against boys during elite competitions.
"I learned a lot from playing against the boys who are a lot more rougher than the girls," says the 17-year-old as she prepares to make her debut for the Hawke's Bay women's sevens team during their Central Region Horowhenua 7s national qualifier at Levin today.
Te Pou went on to become the first female to make the cull for the Hastings East Ross Shield team in 100 years.
"At the top grade they just treated me like a boy," says the self-confessed ex-tomboy with a laugh.
The Karamu Girls' High School first XV player, who sat her last year 12 exam on Thursday, is a first five-eighth but keen to learn the nuances of the abbreviated format of the code.
"I was a little nervous at first because I haven't really had much experience in sevens but the girls are all really welcoming and helpful around the park so I've gained more confidence," she says of the Shaylee Tipiwai-skippered side with Daniel Rodden at the helm as coach and Trent Boswell-Wakefield as his assistant.
Because only four teams are competing in the qualifiers at Playford Park today, the Bay women are assured of an entry into the nationals to be staged at Tauranga on December 15-16.
For the Bay women it's a case of playing the game of patience because their predominantly young members are only going to mature into their roles in a bid to find cohesiveness and a sixth sense that make potential champions look potent.
Te Pou says even though their nationals' berth is in the bag fine tuning their systems against stiff opposition against top seeds Manawatu, No 2 Wellington and No 4 Taranaki.
"Hopefully I'll watch some top athletes play and learn a little bit off them."
Rodden, she says, has been delivering his game philosophy quite clearly at the park during training.
Having ground her teeth with Hastings Rugby and Sports from the age of 7, Te Pou watched her step father, Matau Tomoana, play for Tamatea.
Her 7-year-old sister, Tiana, doesn't play rugby, preferring "all the girly stuff".
■ Hawke's Bay women's team: Shaylee Tipiwai (c), Lara Kendrick, Liana Mikaele-Tu'u, Niamh Jefferson, Teilah Ferguson, Hanna Brough, Julie Ferguson-Ngawaka, Krysten Cottrell, Hope Hakopa, Shaylee Tipiwai, Cortez Te Pou, Anna Powdrell, Felicity Powdrell.
Coach: Daniel Rodden.
Ast coach: Trent Boswell-Wakefield.
Manager: Sarah Kay.