Becky Wood – Warkworth's World Champion

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Running onto the field in the famous black jersey with her Black Ferns sisters, Becky Wood is beaming with confidence and strength. But the road to winning the Women’s Rugby World Cup was long, hard and dirty.

Becky grew up in Warkworth and has played sports most of her life – from netball and touch to boxing and javelin – but the 30-year-old only started playing rugby three years ago. 

She trained as a paramedic and now works as a firefighter at Silverdale Station. Combining full-time work with getting into the shape-of-a-lifetime to make the Black Ferns was incredibly challenging. 

“It was 18 months of going straight from work to training for several hours each night, and games on a Saturday. It didn’t leave a lot of time for much else,” said Becky. 

“Some nights I would come home after training and go onto the front lawn with my partner and a tackle bag in the dark, trying to get something right; repeating the skill until it became second nature. It was tiring. There was blood, sweat, injuries, tears, anger and frustration.”

The relationship with her partner Tutetangihaere Malcolm was also put to the test. 

“We'd expected it to be hard, but it was extremely hard at times - I got close to pulling the plug on several occasions. The late nights, commitment to attend every training, getting home tired and grumpy, lack of quality time with each other, it does put a strain on your relationship,” she said.

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Women’s rugby stars do not get paid, like their male counterparts. The extraordinary performance by the Black Ferns in the Rugby World Cup, in front of record television audiences, led to a storm of criticism around gender inequality in New Zealand sports.  

The message has now reached the ears of the new Government, with Sports Minister Grant Robertson leading the charge and asking NZ Rugby to address the issue as a matter of urgency.

“I think it's great to see that the process is underway. It's a really exciting time for the women's game and we are all looking forward to seeing what comes of it," said Becky. 

As a child, Becky went to Warkworth Primary and Mahurangi College. Always keen to give back to her local community, the sports star recently went back to visit her old turf.

“It was pretty special being back. I didn’t expect the kids to be so excited - I must have signed 300 posters in the primary school.‘ 

The young crowd were given a few tips on how to reach their goals. 

“It may sound a bit silly, but I made an inspiration wall in my room next to my bed, and would look at it every morning when I woke up and every night before I went to sleep. It had a big poster of the Women’s Rugby World Cup, dates, pictures of the Black Ferns, and quotes to motivate me, including ‘do one thing every day that helps you get closer to your goal.’ That way I was constantly reminded to work towards it - not just on my skills and fitness, but also doing my homework on game strategy, techniques and weightlifting progress,” she said.

Clearly, Becky’s motivation and pure grit was rewarded, with the once-in-a-lifetime achievement of winning the sport’s greatest prize. 

“Singing the national anthem in front of a huge crowd, and performing the Haka, is definitely something I will never forget. All the hard work had paid off, and every second had been worth it. We had accomplished what we had set out to do - taking the Cup back to New Zealand.”

Bianca Howlett