Loss has Hotene eager for a chance at revenge

Atawhai Hotene (20) is back in Dunedin after impressing for the Touch Blacks mixed team at the...
Atawhai Hotene (20) is back in Dunedin after impressing for the Touch Blacks mixed team at the World Cup in Kuala Lumpur. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Flying down the wing in Kuala Lumpur was not always Atawhai Hotene's vision.

The World Cup and the Touch Blacks have been the 20-year-old's main focus for the past year.

It all stemmed from a drive to be the best.

By all accounts she has achieved that.

One of New Zealand's stars in the open mixed section of last month's World Cup, she touched down for 15 tries.

That helped the side cruise through to the final, where it was pipped 7-6 by Australia.

While getting so close was "gut-wrenching", it had been a great experience.

"Every time you went on you had to be like `they can't score'," she said.

"I was really nervous to go on.

"We knew we had it; it was just in the second half they blew us out of the park.

"They've done that to us before. It's a tough one.

"But it's good playing against them because we learn every game what we need to do better."

It was a long way from Hotene's introduction to the sport, as a schoolgirl in Clinton.

She played for South Otago from the under-11 age group, although it was not until her third year that she made the Otago team.

"That sucked as a kid, when all your friends make it and you don't."

However, she stuck with it and a few years later represented New Zealand in the under-15 grade.

After leaving South Otago High School and moving to Dunedin to attend the Otago Polytechnic's sports institute, her goals became bigger.

She was chosen for last year's Youth World Cup and followed that by making her debut for the Touch Blacks in last year's transtasman series.

While the Touch Blacks had not become a focus until later on, it was the same mindset she had when she was younger that got her there.

"I've always been a person to want to be the best.

"If I'm playing something, I need to be the best I can be.

"Whether it's going for a run, I don't want anyone to beat me, stuff like that.

"I think it's just the competitive side of me coming out."

That was not restricted to touch either - she also plays premier netball for Phys Ed B as a goal attack.

Alongside that she had recently taken the development officer's job at Southern Zone Rugby League.

It fitted in well with her course - which she is in the last year of - and she was enjoying getting into schools and organising tournaments.

While unsure where she would end up, that drive to be the best showed through in her ultimate goal for touch.

Beating Australia in a transtasman series figured largely, while the pinnacle would be to do that in a World Cup final.

Hotene was not the only Otago representative at the World Cup.

Jessica Faulks was also in her mixed team and Dayna Turnbull, Patricia Hopcroft, Meg Sycamore and Olivia O'Neill were in the women's squad.

On the men's side, PJ Turnbull was in the champion 50s men's team, while Jarrod Powell played for South Africa.

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