It comes with the territory when you play for a country-based team but one UNE Lion has travelled over 2,500 kilometres to be involved in their Uni 7’s campaign.
Leah Wilson left behind her family and friends in New Zealand to try her luck with the Lions.
“David Mays reckoned that they needed a half-back. He suggested I come over and trial for it,” Wilson said.
The former Canadian 7s coach has previously brought New Zealand teams out to play in Australia, and had coached some of the teams Wilson had played for.
So the 18-year old, who hails from Opotiki in the Bay of Plenty region, packed her bags.
She didn’t really know anything about the competition but she was keen to give it a crack and try and further her rugby development.
Mays had crossed paths with Inverell’s Rhiannon Byers when she played for the Stars 7s at the Coral Coast 7s and introduced the two.
Arriving in Inverell mid-way through the season Wilson linked up with the Highlanders and was part of the side that secured the first-ever Central North women’s 7s premiership.
Virtually a right of passage in rugby-mad New Zealand, Wilson has been playing rugby since she was about eight.
“I played netball first and then my dad told me to try rugby,” she said.
“I liked it and just kept playing.”
She has has played the last two tournaments for the Lions and enjoyed the challenge of playing some of the countries’ top players.
“It’s been a big step up,” she said.
Fitness has been the biggest thing.
Even though as a half back in the 15s game she is basically following the ball from ruck to ruck, there is more running in 7s and it is at a consistently higher intensity.
Harbouring ambitions of one day representing her country, Wilson is happy she made the decision to come out to Australia feeling her game has improved, in defence particularly.
Lions coach Ross Duncan noted Wilson has “come a long way” since he first saw her.
This weekend’s leg on the Gold Coast will be the penultimate with the series finale to be played in Adelaide on October 20 and 21.
The Lions sit seventh after placing seventh in the Canberra and Brisbane tournaments.
“I feel like we’re not that far away. We’re only one or two points off,” Wilson said.
Duncan expects to have the strongest squad he has so far at his disposal this weekend.
“I’m certain we can go up another couple of levels in strength of squad. It’s a question of whether we can take that next step,” he said.
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