Seven questions with … Sarah Hirini

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Congratulations on receiving your MNZM medal from the Governor General earlier this month, what was that whole experience like for you?
It was a pretty buzzy feeling, but such a huge honour for me and my family. To be able to go and receive the award with my parents and my husband was pretty cool. It was really special to meet all the other recipients and their families, it showed me how amazing New Zealanders are. They have done so much for our country and it was an extremely special to go to the Governor General’s house, to meet her and watch someone be knighted.


It was pretty big for my Dad to leave the farm – he doesn’t leave often. And to see him in a suit! I am pretty sure he has only worn a suit twice before, at my wedding and my sister’s! I was grateful he and Mum could fly up to Auckland for it. They mean everything to me, they have supported me since the start, so it was great to share that moment with them.


What have you been up to on your off season?
I got to go on my honeymoon which was amazing! We’d booked it even before we got married because it was important to get that time away. Getting married during the season was difficult timing wise, so it was cool to spend a couple of weeks in Bali. It was really special to have some time away and reconnect with family and friends as well because sometimes we don’t get to do much of that when we are mid-season. It was nice to be able to do that going into an Olympic season because now we are traveling, it’s pretty difficult to see my family.


Another congrats on your player of the year nomination, amazing that it’s yourself Tyla and Ruby … have you guys had a bit of banter about who’s going to take it out?
Not so much about who is going win, we are just pretty proud that it is a blackout year, which happened last year too. It's massive for our team, it shows how dominant we have been throughout the year and we are the three lucky ones that are getting recognised from our team’s success. Something we did talk about was having two forwards nominated, because that is a lot different to previous years – you usually have the wingers in there. It’s nice to be recognised in that sense – it just shows kids out there – just because you aren’t the person on the highlights reel, it doesn’t mean that you don’t add to your team, we talk a lot about that as a team. It shows that everyone does their part.


Very exciting year for your team, with the series now increased to eight tournaments, does the planning have to change much with more tournaments/more trips?
It has changed a lot of our preparation especially over preseason. We are used to getting flogged straight out of the gate, but our management team have been really strategic about how we came back from our leave and they allowed us to have a really good break without that pressure of coming back at a certain level. It’s allowed us to build slowly and we totally trust our systems, because we want to be on in 11 months’ time. There is no point peaking too early, so we have really stripped things right back and everyone is on the same page.


A year out from the Olympics, what are the expectations for this year, as the team builds towards 2020?
The World Series is going to be a huge opportunity for teams to go out try new things and try new combinations. For us that’s going to be a big part of our season, getting consistency across the series, using tournaments to gain experience, to continue to grow and be better athletes every time we take the field.


Anyone in the Black Ferns Sevens squad we should be keeping an eye on this series?
The best thing about our team is that every single girl in our squad is ready to go for any tournament. That’s why our team is so good at the moment. We have that depth and a competitiveness against each other, people want to wear the black jersey and ultimately that’s what it comes down to – we don’t want to miss out. We have players at home working really hard at the moment and players here in Colorado who have an opportunity this week. It’s going to be extremely competitive and the coaches will have a tough job picking that Olympic squad.


And finally, we want some predictions from you … who makes the Rugby World Cup final? And who wins the Farah Palmer Cup Premiership & Championship?
For the Rugby World Cup, it’s going to be the All Blacks. In the FPC Premiership I think Canterbury are a really good team so they will be hard to beat, and I’ll go for Hawke’s Bay to win the Championship.


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