Teenage dream close for Tyla Nathan-Wong


"I first played fifteens in 2009 when I was 14. Black Fern Vania Wolfgramm was sports coordinator at Linfield College and invited me to play for Marist (Auckland) coached by Darryl Suasua," Nathan-Wong recalls.


"Darryl was coach of a trial team the next year. He didn't even realise my age until after the game. They said, "well played, but we can't pick you."'


The Black Ferns went onto win the 2010 World Cup beating hosts England 13-10 in the final. Inspired, Nathan-Wong resolved to represent New Zealand was her calling. 


A dozen years later she has the chance to debut for the Black Ferns against Australia in the first Test of the O'Reilly Cup series in Christchurch on Saturday. Nathan-Wong is one of three new faces selected for the two-Test series.


For the best part of the last decade Nathan-Wong has established herself as one of the greats of Sevens. She has played 48 of the 61 all-time tournaments the Black Ferns Sevens have competed in. She has won six World Series titles, two World Cups, and an Olympic and Commonwealth Games gold medal. In 2015 and 2019 she was the New Zealand Women's Sevens player of the year. With 1045 points she is the second highest points scorer in World Rugby Sevens Series history.



In July, the Black Ferns Sevens missed out on the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. Defeating Canada for bronze was scant consolation after a narrow loss to eventual gold medallists Australia in the semis. 


Adjusting to a Black Ferns fifteens camp in Auckland last week wasn't without challenges but it has installed renewed vigour within Nathan-Wong to debut for the Black Ferns.


"To come back to where my love for the sport grew is pretty special," she said.


"We had a few days to let the Comm [Commonwealth] Games soak in. Now I'm here ready to be a sponge and soak up as much as I can as fast as I can."


"I can play halfback or fullback. Those positions are quite different but I can bring some of the skills from Sevens into both positions. I can pass long and with speed while the sweeper role in sevens is quite similar to the role of fullback."


Nathan-Wong will be available for the first Australian Test and then will relink with the Black Ferns Sevens who are preparing for the World Cup in September in Cape Town.


Black Ferns Sevens players are eligible for the Rugby World Cup which starts in Auckland on October 8.



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