Leading scorer in family

Otago winger Jamie Church charges forward during a Farah Palmer Cup championship match against...
Otago winger Jamie Church charges forward during a Farah Palmer Cup championship match against Manawatu at Logan Park last Saturday. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Get the ball to the left. That is where Jamie Church is positioned and ready to strike.

The Otago Spirit winger has scored in every Farah Palmer Cup game she has played this season.

Actually, the 20-year-old has scored twice in two of them, lifting her total to seven tries from five games.

That is some hit rate. She is certainly the leading scorer in her family.

Older sister Paige Church, 26, is a tighthead prop, so while Jamie is hanging out on the wing waiting to pounce, Paige is doing all the hard yards up front.

Some of that mahi goes unnoticed. But her influence on Jamie has been immense.

"I grew up watching her play. I mean she has played for Alhambra-Union since she was about 14 and I was always at every training watching because mum had to drive her," Jamie said.

Jamie joined her older sister at the club six years ago when she turned 14 and they combined to help the Crazy Horses beat Dunedin 29-24 in an epic club final this year.

Paige crashed over for a try and Jamie bagged a brace.

It was great moment for the Church family.

"It was unreal. It was a long time coming, though."

It was Alhambra-Union’s first title since 2012.

Jamie, who lives in Palmerston and works at Macraes, made her debut for the Spirit in 2020 and made a couple of appearances in 2021. But she was not part of the squad last year and did not expect to make it this season.

"I pretty much thought I was not going to play for Otago again but then Sneds [Spirit coach Craig Sneddon] gave me a call at the start of the year."

That was a worthwhile phone call too.

Church is fast, strong and determined to get to the line. All excellent qualities in a finisher and she has been one of the best in the competition.

Only Auckland’s Angelica Vahai (9) and Canterbury’s Karla Wright-Akeli (8) have scored more tries this season.

Church is right up there in some other key statistics as well. She has carried the ball 530 metres (2nd in the competition) and has made 10 line breaks (fourth in the competition).

"I just put the ball down basically. I don’t have to do too much," she said.

That is not entirely accurate. Church has scored some crackers.

"It is going well but I had to work hard to get my spot back."

The Spirit will host a playoff game against North Harbour in Dunedin this afternoon.

They beat North Harbour 37-12 in Dunedin two weeks ago.

The Spirit dominated the championship last season but were upset by Hawke’s Bay in the final.

It was a clear reminder there are no certainties in sport, not that the Spirit needed reminding.

They have lost two of their five round-robin games in what had been a very evenly-contested competition this year.

They crumbled late against front-runner Manawatu to lose 31-27 and were beaten by Northland 42-20.

But a win against North Harbour will secure a semifinal against Northland in Whangarei.

Farah Palmer Cup

Dunedin, 4.35pm today

Otago Spirit: Sheree Hume, Charlotte Va’afusuaga, Cheyenne Cunningham, Keely Hill, Jamie Church, Maia Joseph, Georgia Cormick, Bella Rewiri-Wharerau, Leah Miles, Zoe Whatarau, Julia Gorinski, Kayley Johnson, Eilis Doyle, Tegan Hollows, Pesalini Lave-Heehau. Reserves: Hannah Lithgow, Isla Pringle, Paige Church, Ella Gomez, Grace Hastie, Abigail Paton, Oceana Campbell, Atawhai Hotene.

North Harbour: Sam Curtis, Ava-Lee Jericevich, Moana Courtenay, Olivia Waldron, Lucia Bolton, Grace Freeman, Lovely Pulotu, Tenaija Fletcher, Danielle Mellow, Madisson Mata’afa, Jade Wong, Alanis Toia-Tigafua, Ciara O’Connor, Katelyn Hilton, Meriana Te Nana. Reserves: Mary Auvele, Letelemalanuola Lavea, Clementine Varea, Armani Lam, Ashlee Matapo, Jessie Courtenay-Malupo, Latisha-Achmad, Avalon Strang.