Olympic goal is closer for Manawatu recruit
A romantic influence swayed Wairarapa-based Shakira Baker to join the Manawatu women's team.
The 20-year-old Black Fern lives in Greytown and has played club rugby for Eketahuna in Wellington for three years.
"My boyfriend's based in Pahiatua and it was easier to commute from there," she said.
The new addition to this year's Manawatu Cyclones squad will not only be swapping NPC strips, but she is changing disciplines to represent New Zealand again.
Baker was named in the New Zealand women's sevens team at the weekend, and will play in the Oceania tournament in Fiji next week. It will be her second time sporting the New Zealand kit, after she debuted for the Black Ferns against England last year.
For the women's NPC season, Baker has traded her old Wellington Pride strip for a new Cyclones one.
She was "absolutely stoked" at the news of her sevens selection at the weekend.
"It's a privilege and an honour to wear the black jersey, and I feel lucky to wear it again in a different code.
"I'm excited to play other countries and just seeing where our team is at with playing with a new mix of girls."
She said the combination of players in the team would make for exciting rugby.
"There are netballers, and inexperienced players playing with the likes of [women's] World Cup rugby players.
"It's a real mixture and hopefully we'll come together as a good team and win."
Being selected was a steppingstone towards Baker's long-term goal of playing sevens at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
"I really wanted to go to this tournament to prove to myself I had the goods and I was able to do it . . . I realise I do have the talent to go to Rio.
"It's going to take a lot of hard work, but nothing's ever easy."
The former Wairarapa College pupil plays in the front row for sevens, but moves to centre for 15-a-side.
She said playing the two positions was challenging but helped her develop a stronger physical presence in her games.
Baker will miss the first NPC training due to her sevens commitments.
She flies out next Wednesday to Fiji with Manawatu team-mate and the newly appointed sevens vice-captain Sarah Goss.
- © Fairfax NZ News