By CASS MARRETT
Arrowtown’s Olive Watherston’s recently become the youngest player from Wakatipu High to be selected for the Otago women’s rugby side, Otago Spirit.
The 17-year-old fullback started for the team’s second-to-last game of the season, against Bay of Plenty last month, after several backline players were lost due to injuries.
‘‘The coach called and after he asked me … I had so much energy, I was running around and went and told mum and we had some family friends over … they were also so excited and just added on [to my energy].
‘‘It was a bit nerve-wracking leading up to it, but then my first contact felt real good and I was ready to go,’’ she says.
The Spirit lost 31-3, but that didn’t take away from the significance of the debut for her and her family, including dad, Andy ‘Spick’ Watherston, a former Arrowtown rugby coach.
‘‘He was just really proud because he’s always supported me from day dot when I started playing rugby.
‘‘He’s always giving me his little tips that he used to play with.
‘‘The one piece of advice he always tells me is to ‘fend the big girls away’.’’
She also credits her school 1st XV coach, and former New Zealand sevens star, Brad Fleming, with much of her success in the past couple of years — before being named in the starting XV for Spirit, she took part in its pre-season training camp earlier this year, and, last December, took part in a five-day sevens training camp in Tauranga, followed by the Red Bull Ignite sevens series.
She’s hoping to make the Spirit side again next season, when she’ll be in her final year of high school, and is clear on her future goals for rugby — her priority is playing sevens for NZ.
The rising star says making the Otago women’s side so young’s put her on track to reach that goal.
‘‘It does help and give me a lot of confidence that that goal is achievable.
‘‘It’s just really good playing at that level because it makes me see the level that I need to be at and work at.’’