This month she’s been thrown a lifeline. Fitzpatrick will help the Black Ferns XV’s defend the World Cup on home soil.
“I try to focus on what I can control. I’m excited for this campaign. It’s a new game but I can bring a skill-set and experience from Sevens that helps the team. I’m determined to put my best foot forward” Fitzpatrick said.
The midfield back was recalled to the Black Ferns XV’s in August and featured in the 52-5 victory over Australia in the first Laurie O'Reilly Cup test in Christchurch.
Last Saturday she helped the Black Ferns demolish Japan 95-12 in their last match before the World Cup starts on October 8 against Australia.
“It was a special occasion playing Japan for the first time ever. They’re very energetic and passionate so we had to get our core roles right and make sure we played to our game plan, and got a good hit out for everyone in the squad.
“A couple of times we got caught out with their quick taps and speed of ball movement. We’ll be working on that.”
It appears wing Portia Woodman has little to work on. She scored seven tries. Woodman and Fitzpatrick have a long history of playing sevens together.
“She’s an amazing athlete so it’s cool to see her out there. Everyone from 1 to 23 had a role to play in her tries but she did display some of the magic only she can do. She can beat 1, 2, 3 defenders in the space of five-metres.”
Fitzpatrick helped the Black Ferns beat the world in 2017. She appeared in all five games of the previous fifteens World Cup in Ireland.
“The level of excitement is the same, perhaps higher because we're playing at home in front of family and friends. This team is quite different in terms of experience, a number of girls haven’t been to the World Cup before, but were doing all we can to execute our game plan.
“Our next game plan gives everyone the chance to express themselves. I’m really excited to play alongside Ruahei Demant. I’ve been able to play alongside her in the past, and it was only a matter of time before she broke through. She is a leader through her actions, has a calm presence and controls the game really well.”
Wing Ruby Tui was out of control in her youth, a reality confronted on the Sunday program as well as in her new autobiography Straight Up. Fitzpatrick believes the authenticity of Tui is a major inspiration for Kiwi wahine.
“Ruby is an epic human. I’m lucky to call her sister. She's a hundred percent in everything she does. It was very emotional seeing her journey from then to now but she has an energy which is infectious and an ability to empower and inspire others.”
The Fitzpatrick family was inspired at the August Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. Theresa helped the Black Ferns Sevens win a bronze medal while her sister Sulu Tone-Fitzpatrick was involved in the Silver Ferns netball bronze medal winning team.
New Zealand have won 706 medals at the Commonwealth Games with less than 20 of those medals won by siblings. Hosea and Rico Gear won gold medals with the All Blacks Sevens in 1998 and 2010 respectively while Yvette Williams and Roy Williams were both Halberg award winners who achieved the feat.
“That was a once in a lifetime thing, and we were lucky to have our parents there to support us. We play different sports but were on the same team. It’s a moment we’ll hold close to our hearts forever.”