Milly Mackey's Poua Pride

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Not only has she represented the Wellington Pride, a team her father named, in the Dame Farah Palmer Cup but she is employed by the local union as one of six “activators” in the Rugby Her Way program. In 2023 the 20-year-old will feature as a halfback in Super Rugby Aupiki for Hurricanes Poua.

“I can’t wait for the season to kick off. We had a connection camp before Christmas which was amazing getting to know each other and establishing standards and ideas about how we're going to play,” Mackey said.

“We’ve got a few big names like Krystal Murray, Ayesha Leti-I'iga, and Joanah Ngan-Woo which is incredible and then we’ve got a group of youngsters grateful for the opportunity and growing all the time.”

Mackey has been playing rugby since she was five. She attended Newlands College in the Northern Suburbs but when Newlands couldn’t assemble numbers for a team, she was forced to get a dispensation to play senior rugby for Paremata-Plimmerton aged 16 in 2018.

“That was petty daunting. I was a 56kg teenager with a ponytail,” Mackey laughed.

“It wasn’t as foreign to me as a couple of other girls in the competition. They’d never played rugby before. I actually started most games that season and really grew as a player and a person.”

A few years earlier Mackey had been a ball girl for the Wellington Pride in the FPC. Captain and former Black Fern Jackie Patea-Fereti took a particular shine to the youngster. In 2019 Mackey shifted to Petone, the club Patea-Fereti plays for.

“Jackie has been a huge role model to me. She has taken me under her wing and given me all sorts of tips on how to improve. Playing with her is inspirational.”

Mackey has scored 32 tries and kicked 15 conversions in 33 club games for Paremata-Plimmerton and Petone. Despite injury challenges, she made her Pride debut in a 13-5 win over Otago at Jerry Collins Stadium in Porirua in 2021. Her vibrance in eight appearances for her province has been enough to secure a Super Rugby Aupiki contract.

“The biggest strength in my game is the speed and length of my pass.

“It’s an exciting time to be a halfback in New Zealand right now. Kendra Cocksedge was obviously a legend of the Black Ferns but was there a very long time. With her gone, I’m sure they’ll be a lot of hungry halfbacks looking to put their hands up to take her place.”

Mackey put her hand up midway through 2022 to help run Rugby Her Way, a Wellington Rugby programme that aims to double the number of women and girls playing in the region to 3500 over the next three years.

Mackey, a teacher aide, assists in running girls-only junior skill sessions and holiday programmes, and junior and secondary school development days.

“Rugby Her Way is a safe place for all girls regardless of age or ability to be introduced to the basics of rugby. The biggest turnout we’ve had was about 30 which was awesome.

“The biggest challenge is when to hold the clinics. Afternoons clash with club training, Saturday is game day and Sunday is rest for a lot of people.”

Milly’s father Mo Mackey is someone who’s rarely rested in rugby. The long-time stalwart coached Wellington to two National finals in 2000 and 2001. It was Mo, assistant coach Nigel ‘Solly’ Solomon, Black Ferns, Izzy Ford, Erin Rush and Rebecca Liua'ana, and Manu Sina international Ainslie Sauvao who named Wellington, ‘The Pride.’

“The men’s team is called the Lions while a group of Lions is called a pride. That and the fact there were a lot of mothers in the team meant Pride was a name that fitted nicely,” Milly explained.

The Wellington Pride won the National competition in 2006.

The Hurricanes name Poua derives from the Māori pūrākau of Ranginui (sky father) and Papatūānuku (earthmother).

As a verb, Poua means to establish, to position, to elevate and lift high, to plant firmly, to appoint, and/or to anoint.

As a noun, Poua means pillar, upright, support, goalpost, sustenance and support, stalwart, and mentor.

Milly and the Hurricanes will be looking to live up to those virtues when their season officially kicks off in Levin against defending champions Chiefs Manawa on February 25. 

A week earlier they host Matatū in a pre-season fixture at Jerry Collins Stadium.


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