Tenaija Fletcher started playing rugby with the boys at Mahurangi RFC at four years old.
Rising rugby star and former Mahu student Tenaija Fletcher is one step closer to her goal of playing for the women’s national side. At just 18 years old, she’s been selected for the Blues Super Rugby women’s squad.
As Mahurangi Matters went to press, Fletcher was made a reserve in the first women’s rugby match between two Super Rugby Clubs. It is due to be part of a double header with the Chiefs at Eden Park on May 1. It’s hoped the women’s match will become a regular fixture.
Fletcher says she is overwhelmed with excitement at the possibilities it opens for women’s rugby.
“It has widened the pathway for women and provided them with another step to get to the national level and prove themselves,” she says.
Fletcher says she has always been a Blues supporter, but thought that she would never get to play Super Rugby because she wasn’t a man.
“I’m so grateful for the opportunity to train and possibly play with and against some of the top women players in the world.”
She said many of the players in the Chiefs team would also be old friends from North Harbour.
Fletcher caught the attention of Blues coach Willie Walker at a recent match playing for the Albany Barbarians in the Harbour Rugby club competition.
The Barbarians are a joint club with players from Mahurangi, North Harbour and the Shore.
The team won its first two matches and is top of the standings tables.
Fletcher says women’s rugby is a rapidly growing sport.
This season, the Albany Barbarians’ team is filled with fresh faces who have never been a part of rugby before, but had seen the Barbarians and felt inspired to play.
Fletcher is also in the Harbour Rugby high performance group, which is a selection pool for the provincial team.
Recently, she played in the Vault development team against the Black Ferns in a tournament in Tauranga, even claiming some points off the national side.
She was up against ex-Mahu Black Fern players Ruahei and Kiritapu Demant.
“I look up to them as women who have come from Mahu and made it to that level Tenaija says.”
Fletcher’s has her sights set on playing for the Black Ferns 15s squad and sees making the Blues squad as a stepping stone towards that goal.
Since leaving Mahurangi College, Fletcher has been studying for a degree at AUT in sport, recreation and management.
Although she is busy balancing rugby and studying, she intends to return to Warkworth and help with coaching Mahurangi College’s girls’ rugby team.
Fletcher thanks her father, Digger, for her success.
“He has always been a ‘hear him, before you see him’ guy, supporting loudly on the sidelines. He took me to every training and got me to where I am today,” she says.
She also thanked her college coaches, Mike Cooper and Khamal Ganley, as well as the Mahurangi Rugby Club committee and community for always believing in her. She acknowledged the Tania Dalton Foundation for its mentoring and transport to and from training.