'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

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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.

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

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.

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

New Zealand under-18 women sevens player Ricshay Lemanu.

New Zealand under-18 women sevens player Ricshay Lemanu.

"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).

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