Teenage girl turns out for senior men's team

RACHAEL KELLY
Last updated 05:00 17/07/2014
April Miller
RACHAEL KELLY/Fairfax NZ
MIXING IT: April Miller, 18, has been playing rugby for the Pukerau men's team this season.

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April Miller played her first game of men's club rugby this season with a fractured collarbone.

The only woman playing club rugby in Southland, she said she was too keen to get on the field to let an injury stop her.

Miller is footing it with the big boys, playing for the Pukerau Rugby Club's senior men's team in the Southland-wide President's Grade competition.

"At first I was kinda scared but they treat me the same - I just played it like it was a normal game," Miller said.

"I don't think about it really. Pukerau look after me."

The hard-as-nails 18-year-old played rugby for Gore High School and the Southland Under-18 girls before thinking she would have to give the game away because there was no senior woman's rugby in Southland.

All that changed when she went to watch Pukerau play one afternoon.

"I thought I feel like playing rugby again so I asked if I could play and they said yes. I thought they were only joking but they weren't. They found me a jersey so we went from there."

Miller has played four of five games for the team at lock or number 8.

"There's no pushing in the scrums, that's one thing I was worried about."

While she hasn't scored a try this season, she says she has "stopped a few - that's my fame".

"It's good to be playing with people who know how to play."

The club has asked opposition teams if they wanted to play against her and all have been happy to.

"They don't treat me any differently really - they don't go soft on me but they're not too hard on me either."

April comes from a tough rugby family. Her granddad Harold and dad Wayne both played for Southland and uncle Paul Miller was an All Black.

"People ask me why I'm not playing netball but it's not my thing. I like the sport and being brought up around it - I just wanted to play."

Pukerau Rugby Club president Jack McIntosh said April was a "good player".

"She's an aggressive tackler, a good ball carrier - she doesn't hang off," McIntosh said.

"It's only President's grade rugby so no-one is out there to break records but it's all been good."

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- The Southland Times

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