Fresh focus reaps rewards

Otago sevens player Sam Hollows at the North Ground yesterday after being called into the Black Ferns sevens development team to go to Japan. Photo: Linda Robertson
Otago sevens player Sam Hollows at the North Ground yesterday after being called into the Black Ferns sevens development team to go to Japan. Photo: Linda Robertson
The decision to focus on sevens this year is turning out to be a good one for Sam Hollows.

Having put netball aside to focus on the oval-ball game, she is now preparing to travel to Hokkaido, Japan, with the Black Ferns sevens development team.

It had come as a surprise to the 21-year-old, who had been called up from the New Zealand universities team after injury struck the development side.

Hollows has plenty of experience of playing sport at a high level.

She was a member of last year's South Beko League champion netball team - the feeder team to the Southern Steel - and has played sevens for Otago for four years.

The experience of playing overseas will be a new one though and she is looking forward to the opportunity.

''This is the first time [I've played internationally], I'm so excited,'' she said.

''I've always wanted to travel and it's quite awesome being able to travel doing something that you love, like sport, so it's quite ideal really, very lucky.''

There was not a lot of time to get ready either, with the tournament on September 5-11.

Having suffered a high ankle sprain at a tournament earlier in the year, Hollows had to overcome a period of rehabilitation.

While the ankle is no longer a problem, she is still working her way back to peak fitness and said there was plenty to do between now and when she leaves.

''I've got basically two weeks to get in top shape.

''We're going to be doing a lot of conditioning sessions and just working hard, trying to work on the contact area and definitely just fitness.''

Hollows, a third-year nursing student at Otago Polytechnic, had made the switch from the backs to play prop this year.

While speed had been a strength, she said she was no longer the fastest outside back and thought the move was a good one for the future.

She had enjoyed the switch, although admitted it was difficult.

Born in Balclutha, Hollows played rugby as a child and first played sevens for South Otago High School in her final year at the school.

It was netball that was her priority sport through school though, and one in which she had her share of success.

Playing all three defence positions, she had played for several Otago teams, as well as being involved in the Southern Steel development system.

She played a few club games for Phys Ed Blue this year, although that had to fit around rugby, having taken up the 15-a-side game for the first time since moving to Dunedin.

Playing at centre for the University women's team, she impressed with her pace and ability to run good lines.

It had been something she had enjoyed and enabled her to gain selection to the Otago Spirit for the Farah Palmer Cup.

''I started up because I wanted to get some more experience in the breakdown and contact area, just to develop my sevens game mainly.

''I didn't actually expect it to be so different to sevens.

''It was quite a contrast, real structured and it was quite a surprise, but I really loved it and I'm still loving it.''

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