Passion pays off
Dedicated sportswoman Tyla Nathan-Wong will forgo parties in favour of practice this weekend.
The young rugby star, who shines in three forms of the game, is up for a significant award on Saturday night but instead of attending the ritzy prizegiving she will be with her team preparing for the next big challenge.
It has been a stellar year for the 18-year-old globetrotting footballer, who is one of three up for the title of Junior Maori Sportswoman of the Year in the 2012 Maori Sports Awards.
The Blockhouse Bay resident is the youngest player to be selected for the women's New Zealand Sevens squad and has been steadily collecting stamps in her passport as she travels to rugby sevens, touch and tag tournaments around the world.
"The last few years have been pretty awesome," the fullback/wing says of her sporting rise.
"Making teams and going round the world is pretty exciting."
The journey continues when she departs for the Dubai round of the sevens on Sunday morning.
Nathan-Wong is rapt to be nominated for the award but has put proper preparation for the tournament at the top of her to-do list.
"The awards ceremony is during our buildup for Dubai so I had to make the hard decision to not attend so I can focus on that.
"The buildup is important to me and the team."
The life of the rugby nomad appeals to Nathan-Wong who completed her final school exam this week.
Her calendar is packed with events she hopes to play in - Houston in February, China in March, the Netherlands in May and Russia in June.
The former Lynfield College student also plans to take up a scholarship at AUT next year and will increasingly focus on her sevens game where she feels most at home.
She only really picked up sevens last year but the sport has captured her and the ultimate goal is to represent New Zealand in the 2016 Olympics.
"It's hard to explain why, sevens is similar to touch, you get space and the field is bigger.
"There's something about it that seems right, I fit perfectly into it.
"There's enough space to work individually and to work as part of a team. It's an awesome game."
This year has also seen her take a more professional approach to being an athlete.
Tweaks to her diet have seen her bulk up by a necessary five kilograms and she is training six days a week, including two 5am starts.
She says she is not naturally an early riser so it has taken some adjustment to get cracking that early. Does she resent the tough regime?
"Nah, I love it. I love training.
"I wouldn't put in all the hard work and effort and go through the pain at training if I wasn't passionate about it - there's no point in doing it if you don't love it."