Three rugby sevens athletes who were part of the ‘Baby Ferns’ Youth Olympic Games team have been named to the Black Ferns Sevens squad for 2019.
Late last year Jazmin Hotham, Mahina Paul and Montessa Tairakena were in Argentina, where New Zealand’s under-18 rugby sevens team won the gold medal at the Youth Olympic Games.
The trio will all step out of the classroom and into professional rugby in 2019, with the three players finishing their schooling and moving to the High Performance Sevens centre in Mt Maunganui as part of the 21-strong Black Ferns Sevens squad.
Coach Allan Bunting says the three teenagers are impressive athletes.
"They’re players with massive potential. We are looking towards the Tokyo Olympic Games at the moment, but these are the sorts of players that can look towards the 2024 Olympics and beyond.
"All three were involved in the Youth Olympic Games set up which gave us more opportunities to see them play but more importantly gave them the opportunity to get out on the field, to train and get quality coaching.
"We’ll look to develop them this year, we play a lot of in-house matches and that will be a great experience for these players," said Bunting.
Jazmin Hotham was involved in the Black Ferns Sevens set up in 2018 on a training contract and was originally named to captain the Youth Olympic Games sevens team, nicknamed the ‘Baby Ferns’. Hotham had to withdraw from the squad due to injury but still travelled to Argentina.
Fellow Hamilton Girl’s High School graduate Montessa Tairakena captained the Hamilton Girls High 1st XV to a National title last September before starring in the Youth Olympic Games team.
Above: Montessa competing at the Youth Olympic Games
Mahina Paul, also a member of the Youth Olympic Games team, has previously represented New Zealand in touch. Originally from Whakatane, Paul completed her schooling at Saint Kentigern in Auckland.
"We have a great balance to the squad. There is a really good bunch of experienced players and now this younger group of new players that add real excitement to the mix," said Bunting.
"This year we need to qualify for Tokyo. We have started the season well but that just means more eyes are on us. The first focus is Hamilton, which is awesome for us to play at home for the first time and you can see all the players can’t wait to get there."Buenos Aires 2018 Olympic Summer Youth Games