Michaela Blyde is one of few rugby players who had a female role model growing up. Mother Cherry represented the Black Ferns in the early 1990s and Blyde strived to follow in her footsteps.

In 2013, she achieved her dream, making her debut for the Black Ferns Sevens. Since then, she's become a leading presence in the boom of the women's game in New Zealand.

"I always said to myself that I wanted to follow her footsteps in playing for New Zealand in rugby, and to say that I've done that now is very humbling and I'm very, very proud to represent her last name," Blyde said.

"[Now] it's part of our job to try to inspire the younger generation to try and fight for that black jersey, whether it's XVs or Sevens."


Blyde, who was named World Rugby Women's Sevens Player of the Year for the second straight season, also won the title of best Women's Sevens Player at the New Zealand Rugby awards in Auckland on Thursday night.

The 22-year-old has seen plenty of growth in the women's game since she made her debut for the national team at 17, and said it was important to make sure young girls coming through the ranks now were aware that it was a realistic option to chase.

"It's important to realise that women's sevens is now a fulltime professional job, so they don't have to go to work, they can go straight into training full-time with the Black Ferns Sevens team.

"It's important for them to realise and to try to inspire them to fight for that goal is really important," said Blyde.

Black Ferns No 9 Kendra Cocksedge delivered a similar message at the national awards, where she became the first woman to collect the Kelvin R Tremain award for best overall player.

Cocksedge looked up to the All Blacks when she was growing up and didn't know much about the women's team.

Nowadays, it's a different story.

"It puts women's rugby on the national stage," Cocksedge said of winning the award.

"I feel proud to be up here and hope that one day, there's a young girl out there that wants to aspire to be myself or any other Black Ferns or Black Ferns Sevens player."