Elder first debuted for the Black Ferns in 2015 and was part of the 2017 Rugby World Cup winning team. In 2019 she took over captaincy of the team and played a total of 22 Test matches across seven years.
She was part of the Bay of Plenty Volcanix side that won the Farah Palmer Cup championship in 2017, and captained Chiefs Manawa to the inaugural Sky Super Rugby Aupiki title in 2022.
In a social media post, Elder reflected on a 22-year journey on the field.
“I am extremely grateful for everything the game has given me and I move into life after rugby with so much excitement for what I can give to the game. My time on the field has come to an end, but what I do off the field is only just beginning. I can’t wait.”
New Zealand Rugby’s General Manager Professional Rugby and Performance Chris Lendrum said Elder’s contribution to the game has been immense.
“Les is a remarkable leader who has made an incredible contribution to the game both on and off the field.
“She has tasted success at every level, from provincial championships, the inaugural Super Rugby Aupiki title and a Rugby World Cup title in 2017.
“What stands above all that success is the mana and leadership she brought to women’s rugby at a crucial time in its development from the amateur to professional game,” said Lendrum. “There have been high moments, tough times and everything in between during this period, and through it all Les led with real strength and commitment. The rugby community hold her in the highest regard and thank her.
Kendra Cocksedge, three-time Rugby World Cup champion, New Zealand’s most capped Black Fern and NZRPA member said Les has given so much to her teams, rugby mates and the game.
“She is a great player and teammate, and a trusted and respected leader who we all played for. Les is always there for the team and her teammates. She has been on the NZRPA Board for a number of years, worked hard to advance the women’s game on and off the field and was always there for the younger players, in particular in times of need,” said Cocksedge.
“As Players we know Les will stay involved in the game and continue to impact it positively. For now, though we want to say thank you to Les and her whanaū, and wish them all the best for the future.”
Chiefs Rugby Club Women’s Programme Director Kate Rawnsley commented, “Les has led our Club into a new era with the welcomed addition of our Manawa side. She has led and exemplified Chiefs Mana as Captain and we look forward to seeing her take on her new challenge whilst staying connected to our Club.”
Bay of Plenty Rugby’s General Manager of High Performance Rodney Gibbs also paid tribute to Elder.
“It has been an absolute privilege to have had Les share part of her life journey with us. Over the last five years she has helped shape the game not only in the Bay but also the Chiefs Manawa and the Black Ferns. The passion, competitiveness and leadership she displays every day is something we will miss in our environment, she is a true professional and someone who has paved the way for our young female athletes to pursue their dreams.”