'Representing my country, my family, this is the reason why I play rugby' - Auckland teen rugby star on striving for success in the new professional era

From being the only girl to play rugby among the boys as a seven-year-old, Papatoetoe High School student Ricshay Lemanu is ambitious about giving rugby sevens a real go as a career choice.

Lemanu was named earlier in the week to represent New Zealand at the Youth Olympics in Argentina for the women's under 18 sevens side.

The 17-year-old plays wing for the Auckland Storm team but is a forward in sevens. The Papatoetoe senior student said she is proud to don on the black jersey again.

"Putting that black jersey on I feel so proud of how far I have come and all the help I have gotten," said Lemanu.

"All the opportunities I have been given, I have never taken any of them for granted."

Lemanu played for New Zealand in the Oceania tournament in Sydney in April where the team beat trans-Tasman rivals Australia 21-7 in the final.

"Representing my country, my family - this is the reason why I play rugby."

New Zealand Rugby last month announced its first contracted women players and Lemanu is no stranger playing alongside some of the Black Ferns stars in the Farah Palmer Cup.

New Zealand under-18 women sevens player Ricshay Lemanu.
New Zealand under-18 women sevens player Ricshay Lemanu.

Last year Lemanu debuted for the Auckland Storm on the wing, a side skippered by Black Ferns captain Fiao'o Fa'amausili.

"It felt good because I could learn from them. It was so unreal playing alongside some of them (Black Ferns)."

Ellen Teinakore found it hard to put into words her feelings about her daughter's fast progress through the sevens system.

"Her progress from seeing her being the only girl in the boys' team… it is just an unforgettable moment," said Teinakore.

Teinakore said her family were overwhelmed with tears of joy after hearing the news that Lemanu made the New Zealand under-18 women's squad.

"She came into the kitchen and was like 'mum I got in!' I screamed, I jumped around. Her dad and I jumped around.

"And then we cried, all three of us, it was a pretty awesome moment."

With the sport finally becoming professional for women in New Zealand, Lemanu's mother said she is glad to see her daughter get the opportunities she never had as a former player.

"I felt so proud to be a woman in New Zealand rugby and to be given an opportunity… hooray!

"I look back at it when I played rugby and it was never possible.

"To see it happen in her days I'm like 'yes!' Our world is moving in a good spot for girls in rugby."

Papatoetoe High School sports coordinator Carlin Crossan said Lemanu's selection in the New Zealand team is a massive plus for girls' rugby at the South Auckland school.

"Particularly for girls' rugby - having Ricshay is very handy with her natural talent and it has also helped the school girls' team be a lot more successful this year compared to previous years," said Crossan.

"It also means a lot of our younger girls now have something to aspire to as well.

"Hopefully a number of them can follow in Ricshay's path and they can make rep teams and make New Zealand teams in the future."

New Zealand under 18 women’s sevens squad to compete at October's Youth Olympics in Argentina:

Tiana Davison (Taranaki), Dhys Faleafaga (Wellington), Tynealle Fitzgerald (Bay of Plenty), Iritana Hohaia (Taranaki), Jazmin Hotham (Waikato), Riscshay Lemanu (Auckland), Azalleyah Maaka (Poverty Bay), Risaleaana Pouri-Lane (Tasman), Montessa Tairakena (Waikato), Kalyn Takitimu-Cook (Manawatu), Arorangi Tauranga (Waikato), Hinemoa Watene (Auckland).

Papatoetoe High School student Ricshay Lemanu debuted for the Auckland Storm in the Farah Palmer Cup last year as a year 12. Source: 1 NEWS

Mountain biker Anton Cooper reflects on Comm Games rivalry with Sam Gaze – 'He has this anger when he races'

Canterbury mountain biker Anton Cooper says his fiery finish against Sam Gaze at the Commonwealth Games may have actually been a positive for the pair.

Cooper told 1 NEWS the fiery finish on the Gold Coast was something the pair could reflect on.

"It's just a matter of I suppose, learning from the mistake and we are both probably better for that experience in a funny way."

Gaze made headlines for all the wrong reasons after pipping Cooper to claim the top spot on the podium

The gold medallist was photographed making a rude gesture to the fellow Kiwi during the race and also called him unsportsmanlike.

Cooper said it was simply part of who Gaze is.

"I suppose he has this anger when he races and I think it gets the best out of him at the times - it can be tool for him but it can also be something detrimental as you saw at the Games."

Cooper has since caught up with Gaze and both hope not to get trapped in the heat of the moment again.

Cooper thinks the pair are ‘probably better’ for the experience. Source: TVNZ | Commonwealth Games



Men's rowing pair suffer broken bones within days of each other – 'the chances are so incredibly slim'

For years, the all-conquering men's pair of Hamish Bond and Eric Murray dominated the rowing world but since their retirement, the boat has had its fair share of setbacks.

However, none are more bizarre than what the new men's duo of Tom Murray and Michael Brake have gone through after both had serious injuries within a week of each other.

"The chances of broken bones in the team are quite slim," Brake said.

"But the fact it was within five days and the same people in the boat - the chances are just so incredibly slim that we should be laughing."

Those Easter injuries have put medal chances in the men's pair under incredible pressure.

Brake needs plates to put his wrist back together, while a spill on a sea biscuit did the same to Murray's toes.

Murray is remaining positive though.

"They're not quite the same as they were a few months ago – there’s a couple of angles that have snuck in there but I’m functionally they're as good as anyone else's toes."

One thing on their side is that Brake and Murray have raced and trained together for 10 years so they’re confident they can quickly get back to speed when they race at the third world cup next month.

"We don't want to just be there racing we want to be there actually competing and in contention for medals," Brake said.

Tom Murray and Michael Brake managed to suffer similar injuries just five days apart, hampering their bid to replace legendary Murray and Bond. Source: 1 NEWS