Two of New Zealand's best sevens talents will add their talents to today's star-studded Northland women's club rugby final.
Portia Woodman and Tyla Nathan-Wong will be on opposite sides of today's contest in Ahipara when defending champions Kaikohe take on Te Rarawa at 1pm at the Te Rarawa Rugby Club for the women's club rugby crown.
Both have played more than 150 games for the Black Ferns Sevens team. Woodman, 29, is the top try scorer in World Series sevens competition history with 195 tries, while Nathan-Wong, 26, was the youngest ever to be selected for the team when she made her debut as an 18-year-old in 2012.
The pair were released to play club rugby after their sevens calendar, which would have seen them at the Olympic Games in Japan now, was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Both players were also available for selection for Northland's Farah Palmer Cup campaign this year.
The return represents a homecoming for Woodman, who last lived in Kaikohe when she was 6 years old. While she had come back to visit whānau, Woodman was ecstatic to be based out of Northland again after so long.
"To be home and to be here for so long, I'm so excited," she said.
"To get the call that our [sevens] programme was on hold and there wasn't anything happening for sevens and the opportunity to come back home, I was jumping at it.
"I'm a big believer in things happening for a reason, so this year has been in a blessing in disguise for sure."
Both Woodman and Nathan-Wong featured in last weekend's competition semifinals where Kaikohe edged out a tight win over City, 41-29, and Te Rarawa dominated Otamatea 80-7.
Given her last sevens game was in August last year and her last game of 15s was in 2017, Woodman was restricted to just 40 minutes. However, she hoped she'd be able to get in at least 60 minutes today.
Kaikohe Rugby Club was an integral part of Woodman's whānau, with her grandfather having played and coached at the club for many years. Woodman's parents even meet through the club.
With the team's title on the line, Woodman said she would certainly be feeling the nerves today.
"Even just getting out on to the field for Kaikohe on the weekend, I got the same nerves that I do when I'm playing for NZ."
Nathan-Wong, of Ngāpuhi, had whānau in Porotī but with her partner, champion waka ama paddler Tupuria King, living in Broadwood, she found her way to the Te Rarawa Rugby Club.
Given results went their way, Nathan-Wong said today would have been when the Black Ferns Sevens team would have been playing for Olympic Games gold, however, she said playing in the final for Te Rarawa would be just as rewarding.
"I'm not going to lie, it is a little weird thinking that I could have been there right now playing for Olympic gold again instead of here in Northland," she said.
"But at the same time, I am so excited to play in this final for Te Rarawa, there is something about being up here in Northland that makes me feel at peace and at home."
Nathan-Wong said she was proud to represent her partner's club and hoped she could transfer her skills in the sevens to 15s.
"I'm still getting used to playing 80 minutes of rugby, instead of 14 minutes and having more people of the field, but it's exciting as it is a challenge and challenges are where you learn and get to test yourself."
Today's game has shaped as a star-studded affair, featuring eight current or former Black Ferns. Te Rarawa skipper and Black Ferns hooker Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate set to be supported by her partner and New Zealand rugby league representative Krystal Murray, as well as Black Ferns player Aroha Savage.
The Ahipara team will also be joined on the field by coach and former Black Fern Rawinia Everitt, who has made an extraordinary return to the game for this season only.
While she promised this would be her final game, the 21-capped Black Fern hoped she could end her career on a winning note.
"I said to the girls, "You can send me out on a good one, I definitely won't come back, I won't pull the boots out again', but the girls are hissing and they can't wait to do it at home."
Everitt said her team - undefeated in their three games this season - were ready to take it to the defending champions.
"The girls look to be ready, all the coaching has been done, it's up to them and how we keep those nerves calm and bring it together as a team."
Kaikohe edged Te Rarawa in a close contest for last year's competition title. However, Te Rarawa came out on top in this year's round-robin fixture, winning 27-21.
The visiting team would be bolstered by former Black Fern prop Kamila Wihongi as well as former Black Fern legend Cheryl Smith, who also coached the team.
Smith said there was an air of excitement around the team in anticipation of today's final.
"It's a rematch of the final [last year], so it's going to be an exciting game," she said.
Smith, a Black Fern from 1997 to 2004, said Woodman had been a great asset to the group simply as a keen player, despite her superstar status.
"[Woodman] is just humble and she's really warmed to the girls and vice versa ... it's like she's just one of the girls."
As Northland's FPC coach this year, Smith said both Woodman and Nathan-Wong would be valuable members of the team's second campaign in the domestic women's competition.
Northland play their first FPC game on August 23 against Taranaki in Kaikohe.