Toka charges ahead in life

Matamata Chronicle - - Front Page - REXINE HAWES

‘‘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.’’

in

Tahiti

PHOTOSPORT

Black Fern prop Toka Natua on the charge against the Aus­tralian Wal­la­roos in 2016.

BIGSHOTS PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

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.

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