'Get excited' - Stacey Fluhler on 21st trans-tasman clash against Wallaroos this weekend

By Mana Wikaire-Lewis

The Black Ferns are gearing up for their 21st Trans-Tasman clash with the Wallaroos this Saturday in Ōtautahi, Christchurch, playing in the two-game O’Reilly Cup series for 2022.

This will be their first major international game since their northern tour last year, which was a wakeup call when they lost against England and France.

Black Ferns and Black Ferns Sevens star Stacey Fluhler (Tūhoe, Te Arawa) isn’t stepping on to the field this weekend but was keen to give a special shout out to her mates Theresa Fitzpatrick, debutante Tyla Nathan-Wong, Charmaine McMenamin and Kennedy Simon.

Having seen the team’s camp last week, Fluhler says people should get excited for this Saturday.

“They’ve changed the style of game they’re going to play, which is really exciting. There are little technical elements that they’re looking for to get around those English and French players that we couldn’t quite adapt to last year.

Pushing for a spot

“There’s so much more to come for this team and it makes me want to push for a spot, come World Cup.”

She also paid a special tribute to Canterbury player and Black Ferns veteran Kendra Cocksedge, who has influenced a lot of her game over the years.

“She’s this big ball of energy. She’s not the biggest player but she does her core role and I think that’s what players can look up to because she’s been around the game for so long.

“Just the knowledge that she brings to this team is really awesome, seeing her play at home might be for the last time – I think she’ll go out there, get the job done with a smile.”

Fluhler is prepping for a Sevens tournament in Cape Town, South Africa next month, but is also hoping to get back in the 15s squad for World Cup action upon her return.

“I love a challenge. I’m still a bit mamae in the manawa for losing to losing to Australia in the Commonwealth Game semifinal but I’ll use that as motivation.

“I know my little skill set work-ons that I need to flick over between the two [codes], but that’s all up to me and my mindset.”

'Amazing initiative'

Meanwhile, 10 women’s rugby clubs around the motu are the recipients of the Bunnings Rugby Assist programme’s $300,000 to support the development of women’s rugby club players.

Fluhler thinks the funding is an “amazing initiative” with Bunnings teaming up with NZ Rugby to support female talent from rural areas, from new jerseys to new facilities of their own, to giving them opportunities to make a career out of the sport.

“I think that’s going to be extremely helpful towards their growth as players, as a club, and as a whole for women’s rugby,” she says.

“We wāhine toa in the Black Ferns environment had showcased that there’s a pathway for females in rugby around the world and in New Zealand. Playing more games at home is pretty awesome to show the girls we can do it.”