New Zealand Rugby have announced their contracted Black Ferns 7s squad for 2018. The 2018 squad of 23 contracted players for 2018, includes three new players among the 20 fully contracted players and three training contracts.
Waikato’s Shiray Tane returns after last playing for the Black Ferns Sevens in 2016; Lyric Faleafaga graduates from a training to full contract, while six new players have all progressed through the New Zealand Sevens Development programme.
Having recently moved overseas, Kayla McAlister is not included in this year's squad.
Black Ferns Sevens Coach Allan Bunting said the growth in the women’s game has unearthed talented athletes and that he is looking forward to working with the new players.
“We have been keeping a close eye on the development group for quite a while and watched how they performed at Nationals last month.
“The players we have brought in have a lot of potential and the ability to learn and grow quickly. They will add enthusiasm to our group and have the character and work ethic that we are after,” said Bunting.
Rhiarna Ferris, Huia Harding and Risi Pouri-Lane are all new to the Black Ferns Sevens team, while Jazmin Hotham, Natahlia Moors and Leanna Ryan will join the squad on training contracts.
“The idea of training contacts is to support these younger players to migrate into the full squad. There is a big gap between national and international level, so we are looking to give them support to get physically ready and grow their technical skill set.”
Bunting said the aim is to not only grow his squad but work closely with the development programme as well.
“The plan this year is to give all of our contracted players experience on the field at some stage. Commonwealth Games and World Cup will be our top players, but we want to inject others throughout the year and have 20 players that are capable of competing for the playing 12 every tournament.
“Beyond that we really want to grow the depth, we want to see the development squad players challenging for contracts and have a good group of 30 players pushing for spots.”
The squad is now preparing for April’s Commonwealth Games in Australia, before three World Sevens Series tournament and the Rugby World Cup Sevens round out the season.
The contracted squad is (* indicates a new contracted player):
Shakira Baker – Waikato
Michaela Blyde - Bay of Plenty
Kelly Brazier – Bay of Plenty
Gayle Broughton – Bay of Plenty
Lyric Faleafaga – Wellington
Rhiarna Ferris – Manawatu*
Theresa Fitzpatrick – Auckland
Sarah Goss – Manawatu
Huia Harding – Waikato*
Jazmin Hotham – Waikato* (training contract)
Natahlia Moors - Auckland* (training contract)
Tyla Nathan-Wong – Auckland
Risi Pouri-Lane – Tasman*
Leanna Ryan - Waikato* (training contract)
Alena Saili - Southland
Shiray Tane – Waikato
Terina Te Tamaki – Waikato
Ruby Tui – Bay of Plenty
Stacey Waaka – Waikato
Kat Whata-Simpkins – Wellington
Niall Williams – Auckland
Tenika Willison – Waikato
Portia Woodman – Counties Manukau
Player background and Coach comments
Ferris is a talented athlete that comes from a netball background.
“She has been knocking on the door of national selection for a while and stood out in January playing for Manawatu at Nationals. She has a desire to work hard and has big potential.”
A lawyer in Hamilton, Harding represents Waikato in both Sevens and 15s.
“She plays in the forwards but has the skills of a back and learns quickly. She has a desire to grow and learn and will do well in our environment.”
Hotham has currently in her final year of Hamilton Girls’ High School and in 2017 was a member of the New Zealand Under 17 girls’ sevens team.
“We saw Hotham in action last year and could see her talent then. She stands out at everything she does, she is deputy head girl and we want her to enjoy her last year at school. We want to support her and hopefully she will graduate into our squad full time next year.”
Moors previously represented Australia at the Youth Olympics before moving back to New Zealand to further her sevens career.
“She’s a bit of a wild card. Natahlia was a wing that has moved to halfback and shes done well in that change. She brings excitement and flair and something a bit different.”
Pouri-Lane finished Year 13 at Motueka High School last year and joins the Black Ferns Sevens full time in 2018.
“Risi has shown a real dedication to Sevens over the past few years and has been a part of the development squad. She comes from a judo background and you can see that, she is good in contact. Risi is keen to learn and brings a well-rounded skill set.
While new to rugby, Ryan is no stranger to top level sport, having played representative soccer and competing in athletics at a national level.
“Leanna is a stand out with her speed. We don’t have depth in that wing position at the moment and Leanna brings the pace needed. With the right support we will get her strong and powerful, it’s exciting to think what she could achieve.”