After a year away from the playing field with an Achilles injury, Woodman returned to the pitch at the end of last year with the Black Ferns Sevens at the Oceania tournament in Fiji. Relatively fresh on the field, Woodman sustained a hamstring strain and her long and frustrating injury layoff continued.
The 28 year-old featured on Sky Sport’s the Breakdown and in an open and honest interview told Jeff Wilson and Mils Muliaina that pre-lockdown she was closing in on a return.
“I was really close to getting into team trainings. Since being in lockdown I’ve done a PB in the bronco, which meant I could then move into team trainings and fully get into it, but I have no team to be apart of. It’s a little bit frustrating, but that’s part of sport and all of the things we have had to deal with in this lockdown.”
While the Black Ferns Sevens haven’t been able to train together at their base in Mount Maunganui over the last six weeks, the squad have remained in close contact with each other over social media and online platforms. The constant communication has helped a lot of the players get through some tough times.
“We wouldn’t be the tight-knit team that we are if we hadn’t stayed connected during these hard times. There are young girls in our squad, 18, 19 and 20 year old’s who have never really experience this and they are in this limbo zone.Portia Woodman-Wickliffe on Instagram: "This Happy about heading into Level ✌️ • This excited to see my squad soon 💓"
“We’ve been making sure they are ok, but also making sure we have that banter, because that’s what we love right. We are definitely missing the training with each other and the competition that you have when you are on the field. The biggest thing we are looking forward to is seeing each other and hugging each other. We are such a cuddly whānau and we laugh and cry with each other, so that will be a huge thing for all of us.”
The World Series all-time top try-scorer eluded to one key thing that continues to drive and motivate her every day.
“I look back at 2016 [Olympics] when I broke down on that field and I felt like I didn’t give my best in that game and it jeopardised our team’s opportunity at a gold medal. That’s definitely fired me right up over these last four years. I don’t want to ever feel like that again. I feel like once I get into this position of being able to play, I’ll have my mental state right.
“Once you’ve gone through a big rehab situation or injury like this, you can overcome anything. I want to be better than I was in 2016.”
While the Olympics next year in Japan is the ultimate goal for Woodman, she said the Farah Palmer Cup and even next year’s World Cup in New Zealand are also being considered.
“I’m quite looking forward to playing some Farah Palmer Cup and seeing how that all rolls out within the next couple of weeks. Then there is the Olympics and if the chance comes up that I can play in the World Cup next year, then I will give it a crack. But it all comes down to communications within the two environments of 15’s and Sevens.
“Playing 15’s is completely different to Sevens and I know that from the last World Cup, I was still learning how to get my head around 15’s. The possibility of going into a World Cup with no Test matches with the Black Ferns might be a bit of a sticky situation, but I’m keen to have a crack at both if the opportunity comes up.”
Woodman would love to see some form of a Farah Palmer Cup competition in 2020 and she’d also love to be involved.
“It would be really awesome if all the women’s rugby players could get in and play Farah Palmer Cup. I’m not sure how that structure works, but I would be really keen to see all the professional women’s players get in and make it massive. Club and NPC level is where you fall in love with the game. Hopefully, it will bring back the fire within women’s rugby and have everyone really supporting it. You may not be able to be at the games, but people watching on TV would be awesome.”