Toka charges ahead in life
‘‘No fear, no reserve’’.
Those were the inspirational words passed down from New Zealand Black Fern rugby star Toka Natua as the guest speaker at this year’s Matamata-Piako Sports Awards.
The awards, organised by Sport Waikato, celebrate sport stars smashing personal goals and breaking records in their chosen code.
Natua, 25 years old from Tokoroa, certainly fits the bill. She shared memories of growing up in a family which loved to play rugby together.
The only rule they had was ‘‘you can play but you can’t cry’’. It was in this small setting that her love for the game grew.
And it grew - eventually playing for Waikato in the Women’s Provincial Championship before becoming a Black Fern in 2015.
She has one goal. That is to be the best female rugby player in the world. She’s well on the way to achieving that goal.
She is the only prop to score a hat-trick in a Rugby World Cup final, when the Black Ferns defeated England 41-32 in Ireland earlier this year.
With no financial reward for being a Black Fern, Natua had to find the means to travel from Tokoroa to Hamilton for training three days a week.
Things were also tough at home. Her father found it difficult to find work and putting food on the table was sometimes a struggle.
But as she said ‘‘no fear, no reserve’’, indicating her strong will to achieve.
It would be easier to live in Hamilton, but living close to family motivated her, so she remained in Tokoroa.
It was a story that touched the hearts of many at the awards event on Thursday night at the Tatuanui Hall and people offered a standing ovation at the con- clusion of her speech.
Natua’s Waikato rugby team mate Michelle Montague especially wanted to recognise her Black Fern friend.
‘‘We have been team mates for four years now for Waikato,’’ said Montague.
‘‘She has such a big heart and is so caring, but on the field she is zoned in, that’s her. She is always communicating and positive.’’
Montague received the award for Matamata-Piako Sporting Personality of the Year and was a nominee for Sportswoman of the Year.
The Matamata athlete’s passion was rugby, but she also competed in mixed martial arts and was a member of the New Zealand wrestling team.
She won gold at the Oceania
Service to Sport: Brian Wratt, Heather Stringer, Ragvir Singh
Volunteer of the Year: Stephen Lindsay
Team of the Year: Hinuera Bowling Club Ladies Premier A Interclub Team
Junior Sportswoman: Tatiana Kaumoana
Junior Sportsman: Sam Weatherley
Sportswomanof the Year: Tarryn Davey
Sportsman of the Year: Kieran McPherson
Club of the Year: Hinuera Bowling Club
Secondary School Contribution to Sport: Olivia Goodwin
Sporting Personality of the Year: Michelle Montague
wrestling champs earlier this year.
Next month she will travel to Johannesburg for the Commonwealth Champs, where she will wrestle for a place in the Brisbane 2018 Commonwealth Games.
She’s training daily, against people stronger and fitter than her, to prepare for the competition.
Montague said her passion was always rugby, but wrestling was a close second.
‘‘I have always dreamed of being in high level sport, but for me it was always rugby.
‘‘Once you have a mad love for one sport, it’s hard to replace it with anything else. For me, wrestling is so similar in terms of contact and training.’’
Montague said she did not see herself as an advocate for women in sport, but certainly hoped she inspired others to try a sport that’s different.
‘‘I played rugby with the boys all my life growing up, being the strong chick, not just physically, but mentally strong and stubborn.
‘‘You just set your mind on something and you just won’t quit till you have done it.’’
Black Fern prop Toka Natua on the charge against the Australian Wallaroos in 2016.
From one Waikato rugby legend to a rising Waikato rugby star: Sport Waikato boss Matthew Cooper with Waikato women’s rugby player Michelle Montague, who was named Sporting Personality of the Year.