Two Times the Talent

NZ Rugby World team

Author short introduction. Three to five lines of brief description.

In another of our For the Love of the Game features, dual international Honey Hireme-Smiler writes about adapting to two games and getting to play with her wife, Rochelle.

Honey Hireme captain of the Kiwi Ferns heads for the try line during the Oceania league test between the Kiwi Ferns and Fetu Samoa at Mt Smart Stadium on June 22, 2019 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

I remember being five years old sitting in the car at our local Putaruru Dragons rugby league club crying because my Dad wouldn’t let me play with my brother in his team, he said ‘no you’re a girl –league is for boys’.

The following week we went back to watch my brother's game again but this time Dad was at work. My uncle was the coach and said, “bub do you wantto play today?”.

I jumped out of the car, sprinted onto the field so fast my mum didn’t even have the chance to say NO.

That’s where it all started for me. The seed was planted. I went on to play in the schoolboys' teams for almost 10 years, making the Midlands and Northern zone rep teams by the time I was nine years old.

By 14 I was booted out of the boys teams, no longer allowed to play with them. I played my first game of women's rugby league for the Putaruru Dragons when I was 14 years old. I loved it but it was definitely scary, playing alongside older, bigger women. The following year I played my first game of union for Tokoroa Girls High School. Their school coach had seen me playing league for Putaruru and asked if I’d be keen to try school girls rugby for Tokoroa. Now, my Dad was a staunch league man, and Tokoroa High were our biggest rivals in all sports at school. So I knew this would piss a few people off, but I was always a mischievous kid, so I said ‘yep, sure, I’ll give it a go’.

I had no idea how to play rugby but I rocked up to the first game at Tokoroa High thinking this will be easy, it's just like league but more kicking. I remember my first run. I was fullback and they kicked it deep, I ran back, picked up the ball and saw plenty of space. I started to run it back beating a couple of defenders before being brought down in a good round-the-legs cover tackle, the defender let me go, so I stood up with the ball in hand, an arriving opposition player started to push me, I pushed her back quite aggressively while standing my ground and then played the ball under my legs. The referee looked confused, my teammates looked confused and I wasn't sure why my dummy half wasn't picking it up. Eventually the referee penalised me for not releasing and my coach ran on and showed me in front of everyone how to place the ball when you get tackled. I thought that was the most ridiculous rule ever, just lie down like a staple and let the ball go while all the players rumble around over the top of you to fight for possession. “It’s called a ruck,” my coach said. It was at that point I realised I had a lot to learn about this game.

Continue this story in our Jun/ July issue.

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