O'Reilly legacy looms large in the Black Ferns

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"I gave an interview the other day and said coach O'Reilly had been my greatest coaching mentor. I'm sure he's up there both proud of his role, and pissed off he can't get down to reinforce some of the key factors I've forgotten about!!"


Wayne Smith is now the Black Ferns Director of Rugby. On Saturday at Orangetheory Stadium in Christchurch, his side defended a trophy that bears the name of Laurie O'Reilly. The O'Reilly Cup is now safely locked away for another year after the Black Ferns defeated Australia, 52-5.


Laurie's daughter, Lauren O’Reilly presented the Black Ferns with their jerseys prior to the match. 


Lauren is Black Fern number 44. A hooker from Canterbury, she debuted for New Zealand against the Auckland XV in 1992. In 1994 she helped New Zealand win the first official test against Australia 37-0 in Canberra. 


"I remember joking with the Aussies afterwards that we looked like waitresses and they looked like air hostesses," Lauren laughed.


"It was all very amateur. It's amazing to think how far the game has come.


"It's an extraordinary honor to speak to the girls. I've never done anything like this before. I think I'll try to convey how determined and passionate dad was. He achieved great things for selfless reasons," said Lauren before presenting the jerseys.


Laurie O'Reilly is the godfather of New Zealand women's rugby.


A prop forward, Laurie won senior championships as a player with Canterbury University in 1963 and 1965. He turned his hand to coaching in 1968 and guided University to senior championship success in 1977, 1980, 1983 and 1987. It was at University where Laurie first met Wayne Smith.


Laurie was coach of the first official New Zealand’s women's team in 1989. 


In 1991 he mentored New Zealand at their first World Cup and in 1992 the New Zealand women's team was formally recognised. 


Laurie devoted countless volunteer hours and expenditure of his own personal money to advance the female game. 


Lauren O'Reilly is presented her Black Ferns cap at a Capping ceremony in Auckland


Tragically, the longtime lawyer and Children's Commissioner died of cancer in 1998, aged 55. 


In 2007, the O’Reilly Cup for tests against Australia was inaugurated.


Laurie first became involved in rugby because his daughter Lauren was keen to play. 


"Dad couldn't help himself. He'd walk by a park where a kid would be passing a ball. If they weren't doing it right he'd go over and offer advice," Lauren said.


"If I was going to play, I might as well play properly.


"I haven't spoken to Wayne Smith for a long time but it's a testament to the man that he still acknowledges Dad's influence after all these years. It's something the family is incredibly proud of.


"I think Dad and Wayne probably bonded because they're great thinkers about the game. They care about people and put others first.


"Dad had all these sayings like, 'play in the rain, train in the rain' and 'good skills create good luck.'


"When I was playing for Canterbury we were lucky All Blacks like Warwick Taylor and Victor Simpson would come and help at training. I think Wayne has carried on that special gift of sharing knowledge."


Lauren has been sharing knowledge of PE with students at Francis Douglas Memorial College in New Plymouth for a quarter of a century. She taught the Barrett's and Wellington captain Du'Plessis Kirifi. She works with Kendra Cocksedge's Mum, Maire.


"Maire works in the office at Francis Douglas. I remember when Kendra was very young, the size of sock, I gave her a New Zealand teachers college jersey. It looked like a duvet on her. She's the only present Black Fern I know personally."


The Black Ferns have won all 21 tests against Australia.



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