Black Fern Saili back where it all began

Contracted Black Ferns player Alena Saili gives tips at a Southland Girls’ High School First XV...
Contracted Black Ferns player Alena Saili gives tips at a Southland Girls’ High School First XV training session in Invercargill on Thursday. Photo: Logan Savory
After what Alena Saili has described as two of the more memorable weeks of her life the talented rugby player returned to where it all started this week.

Over the past fortnight the Southlander has started on the wing for the Black Ferns in tests against Australia in Sydney and Auckland.

The Black Ferns won both fixtures, which were played as double-headers alongside the All Blacks-Wallabies Bledisloe Cup games.

"It’s been amazing. To get to play at places like ANZ Stadium and then Eden Park, it was unreal," she said.

That moment at Eden Park was extra special considering she was able to line up in the black jersey with her parents watching on from the grandstand, Saili said.

Before the two tests for the 15-a-side Black Ferns team, Saili played for the national women’s sevens team. However, the national women’s sevens team is yet to play an international fixture in New Zealand.

"To get to play in front of my parents at Eden Park made it even better."

Still buzzing from the stint with the Blacks Ferns Saili returned to Invercargill for a three-week break before she re-joins the New Zealand women’s sevens programme.

During her time in Invercargill this week she made an appearance at a Southland Girls’ High School First XV training. She reunited with her former school coach, Nathan Muir, to help put the Southland Girls’ team through its paces. It was during her time at Southland Girls’ High School  Saili emerged as a rising women’s rugby star.

She played for the school’s first XV from year 9 right through to year 13.

In 2016 Saili scored a hat-trick of tries inside the first 25 minutes of the New Zealand secondary schools final to help Southland Girls’ beat St Mary’s and claim a national title.

Southland Girls’ progressed to the national finals in all five years Saili was in the school’s first XV.

That Southland Girls’ rugby dynasty has continued since Saili left school in 2016.

Last year, the team made the national finals in Palmerston North and will return again this week for yet another shot at a national title.

"It is cool to see it continuing — they’ve done really well," Saili said.

While Saili has had a taste of 15s rugby she will return to sevens mode with the contracted player now pushing for a spot in the Black Ferns team for the trip to Colorado for a leg of the World Sevens Series in October.

- Logan Savory

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