St Mary's College rugby stars rub shoulders with rugby greats
A routine school morning turned into an unforgettable experience for students at St Mary's College on Thursday when their rugby heroes made a surprise visit.
All Blacks stars Ardie Savea and Nehe Milner-Skudder and Black Ferns Hazel Tubic and Sosoli Talawadua dropped in for a question and answer session with about 30 rapt rugby players from the school.
Women's rugby is going from strength-to-strength at the school, with a recent win by their sevens team in Japan and an expansion to three teams.
The young players have brought mana to the school and "are real rock stars", teacher in charge of rugby Mark Hurley said, so it seemed only appropriate that they got some star treatment of their own.
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An audible gasp went up from the room as the stars arrived.
The girls listened intently to their heroes who fielded questions about balancing rugby with the NCEAs, embarrassing on-field mistakes and pre-game rituals.
"When they first started, they didn't realise how good they were," Savea, who helps coach the school's sevens team, said.
He hoped the meet-and-greet would help the girls see professional opportunities in the sport.
"Meeting these ladies, hopefully that drives them to be where they are."
Black Fern Hazel Tubic said that growing up she was always tagging along with the boys to play rugby, and struggling to get an all-girls team started.
But despite the early challenges by age 14 she had her eyes set on playing rugby for New Zealand.
"Hopefully we'll see some of you in the black jerseys in the next few years," she said.
Sisters Lyric Faleafaga, 17, and Dhys Faleafaga, 16, two of the schools star players were in attendance.
Between them, the sisters have already acquired a long list of accomplishments including helping the sevens team take out the Sanix World Youth Cup held in Japan earlier this year.
"I was kind of shocked when they came in, I was star-struck," Dhys said.
"We thought it was going to be a talking about scholarships," Lyric added.
When they started playing the school had a single 10s team but as "opportunities started to open up the girls wanted to come in and play", Dhys said.
The school now has a record number of girls teams in the region.
The students also scored free tickets to see the Black Ferns in action on Friday when they take on Canada as part of the International Women's Rugby Series.