Sevens player banks on switch

00:06, Jan 09 2014
Southland Times photo
Southland Womens Sevens player Nikki Heale, from Gore.

Although she may be recognised as a rural banker, Nikki Heale is turning her hand at something new as she departs to Rotorua tomorrow as part of the Southland women sevens team.

Heale, originally a 15-a-side player, has made the switch after a slight push from staff mate and Southland men's sevens coach Grant Dermody.

After moving to Gore to follow her career three years ago Heale took up netball, joining the Ex High club.

There was only one women's rugby team in Southland, the Invercargill Blues team, and the travelling involved meant Heale turned to netball.

''I didn't want to travel so far to play rugby, practice was in Invercargill and games were in Dunedin every second weekend,'' she said.

So when the word was given about sevens, Heale jumped at the opportunity.After playing 15-a-side for the past 10 years, sevens was a different ball game for Heale but being coached by Andrew Rowland and Mal Dermody she managed to pick up the game.


''It's a lot different to 15s, I have to remind myself to stop going in to contact,'' she said.

Heale, who had played as part of the Manawatu NPC women's team back in 2010, is in her first year of playing sevens and had been training with the Southland women's team since June last year.

The past four months had seen the team trainings increase from once a month to twice a week, which included a large amount of fitness training, she said.

Heale will join fellow Northern and Eastern Southland sevens players Georgina Lindsay, Lisa Dyer, Kate Day and Laura Buckingham as part of the 12-woman team.

''We are a really young team, but the opportunity to gain experience is huge,'' she said.

Southland will face a strong pool, with Auckland, Otago and Wellington being their opposition for round robin games.

Heale said although the team was a lot smaller than other teams, they made up for it in determination.

The team will return to Southland on Sunday.