Natua makes the Ferns
Childhood dreams of pulling on black jerseys together are coming true for Toka Natua and Chelsea Alley.
The Tokoroa born and bred rugby players have been named in the Black Ferns touring squad, alongside Putaruru’s Honey Hireme who is fresh from her exploits with the world serieswinning New Zealand Women’s Sevens side.
Unlike for Hireme and Alley, the June/July tour of Canada will be 23-year-old Natua’s debut on the international field.
The success is particularly special for the 97kg newlydeveloped prop who recalled her first game for Southern United with Alley right there beside her.
‘‘The funny thing is, Chelsea and I, we used to say we’d both be Black Ferns together one day...all the little things we used to say are coming true.’’
But 12-year-old’s dreams rarely turn into reality if there is no support, hard work, commitment or perserverance. And Natua had it all. She said she knew the idea of representing her country was possible in about 2012.
‘‘My Limitless crew, they were the ones that helped me get back into shape to start my journey.’’
The Waikato provincial player said she even wrote her goal on the fitness club’s motivation wall.
So when the former Forest View High School player entered the New Zealand training camp over Queen’s Birthday, she knew she was ready.
‘‘When I went there I thought, I knew I had the talent...I just had to show it. I wanted to do it for all the things I’m involved in back here in my own town. I wanted to do it for Tokoroa and for Limitless and for all the young people I spoke in front of when I was a guest speaker [ at the Youth Worker in Schools Camp Castle Rock last month].’’
And most of all, she wanted to do it for her family.
She said the final trial game was the toughest she had ever played. But waiting for the announcement was almost tougher.
‘‘The selectors said that if you recieved a call that it meant that you didn’t make the team...Then I got a call and I said ‘oh is this the phone call? I didn’t make it?’’
The person on the other end, Black Ferns assistant coach Reuben Samuel, changed the subject, Natua said.
After bantering with her for a while he finally broke the news.
‘‘ I just broke down crying,’’ Natua said.
Samuel said it was an honour to pass on the good news.
‘‘I remember her from Forest View. I went down and done a few trainings there and I saw back then, Toka and Chelsea... It was always going to be a matter of who puts their head down and works for it.’’
He said he is extremely proud, being her provincial coach, and a ‘‘Tokoroa boy’’ himself.
‘‘Over the past few months she’s travelled up here, [to Auckland] and despite how hard it’s been she’s learnt the technical and practical side of prop.
‘‘Those who have played in that position will realise how hard it is. It’s not just someone who is big... They have a huge role on the field, more so that other positions. We felt she had enough skill already to transfer there we just needed to see how she went.’’
Last year was the first time Natua really honed in on what she could potentially be, he said.
‘‘ She was one of the biggest threats in provincial rugby last year...I told her we think internationally she could be prop... [ but] she didn’t really believe what we were seeing earlier on. She’s certainly proved everybody right. She will be an international prop.
Natua said a huge thanks goes out to family and friends. She said her success is a result of great coaching from many including Jeremy Siulepa, her uncle John Natua, Niko Aloiai, Bones Joseph, Reuben Samuel, Wayne Maxwell, Crystal Kaua and Greg Smith.
Natua, Alley and Hireme have been named in the starting 15 for the Canada tour.
Three South Waikato Black Ferns will take the field in Canada in the tour later this month.