Renee Wickliffe: "Rugby saved my life"

By James Perry

Renee Wickliffe is one of the best rugby players in the world. However, there were times when they could have followed different paths. 

"Growing up, I was down a pathway where drugs and alcohol were involved and for me, rugby saved my life," the World Champion winger said today at Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility in Wiri. "[How] I got there is just about sticking at it and like I could've been one of them in there today."

The Hauraki descendant was one of a number of Black Ferns members who visited the prison today to share their stories and help inspire the women to find a new direction. 

Wickliffe, fellow Black Ferns fifteens player Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali and 7s World Champions Portia Woodman and Gayle Broughton were welcomed into the prison with a pōhiri, and many loud cheers of excitement. One of the women who was to benefit from the rugby players presence says "it will push us more, it will make us want more and drive for more. For us to set goals and achieve what we can because, we can all be someone."

Wickliffe was one player who pushed strongly to enter the prison to share her story of overcoming difficult circumstances after having some time working with prisoners at Christchurch Women's Prison. She describe her time sharing her story as "special", and today "I think it's special here because I'm able to do it again and to hopefully inspire some of the women in there. So if I can do that, then that's my job done. "

It is hoped that these visits will continue into the future.

Wickliffe believes their position can be the motivation some of the prisoners need.

"We are Black Ferns and we're people as well," says Wickliffe.

"Just like I said, just to try and inspire them as much as we can to whatever they want to achieve in life," says Wickliffe.

"That's a big positive for me anyway."