Jamie Te Pania - New Zealand Women's 30's

I have been both privileged and honoured to have represented my country at the 2013 Super Trans-Tasman (STT) series which was held in Auckland, New Zealand from 5th February to 10th February 2013.

Dominic Patea (Dom) was our coach and accompanying him was his trusty stead of a manager, Karl Middleton.

When our team first met back in October 2012, I remember Dom saying,

“I’ve always wondered, ‘why do our ladies go so bad against Australia?’ But rather than be one of the critics, I’ve decided to put my name to the challenge and take on the coaching role for the New Zealand Women’s 30 team”.

Thus began our journey with Dom.

Day 1

Arriving into camp on Sunday afternoon was filled with mixed emotions of excitement and anxiety.

Excited that the STT series had finally arrived and anxious at how our team was looking.

The lead up to this series had never gone to plan, in fact we’d never had a training camp with a full squad before.

To make matters worse, we’d also lost a couple of key players weeks before the series started.

Day 2

Monday morning arrived and we were all up and buzzing with excitement of what the day may hold.

Dom took us through various training blocks of how he wanted us to run his plays and policies.

As with any new team there were a few teething problems as us girls started to work with each other.

Our team was full of potential and talent, the challenge for Dom and Karl would be to bring this all together so that we worked as a competent unit.

Yet, creating that kind of confidence and trust in each other doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time, practice and patience. Something we didn’t have a lot of.

That afternoon, we played the New Zealand Over 50’s Men’s team, who came out tough and hard. They literally ran at us like bulls. This was our first hit out as a team.

During this game Dom implemented his strategies of how we would run our team plays. They worked a treat as we went on to beat the guys in this trial game.

At the end of the game we played a ‘drop-off’ scenario, where Dom again implemented his strategy of how we would play if we were ever in this situation (this would prove vital come game two of the STT series).

Monday night came and with it was our jersey presentation. I was so filled with excitement at hearing my name being called out that I forgot to thank my coach when he handed me my playing top. I had to turn back and give him a kiss and I must have looked really silly in front of the whole New Zealand (NZ) contingent (so, my attempt at trying to be cool, calm and collected didn’t work).

Monty Betham was the guest speaker at this event and his speech about his upbringing, the obstacles he faced in life, his father’s influence and his philosophies on life would also become another key foundation point of our camp and most of our lives.

"If you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail."

In order to achieve this you must follow the ‘3 P’s’.

  1. Purpose – why are you doing this?
  2. Process – what do you need to do to get there?
  3. Perseverance – keep going and never stop!

He also finished with a P for prayers to thank the one above.

Day 3

I was so excited about Tuesday’s session as Lovey Woodhouse (our last team member and newest recruit) had finally joined our camp. Having played with Lovey many years ago and knowing her attacking strength on the line gave me such confidence that we would indeed score.

The challenge for us would be to defend what the Australian girls would throw at us.

My fellow Victorian buddies, Brooke James, Kirsten Friend and Mel Woodward were all playing for the opposition, so knowing these girl’s capabilities only added more anxiety to our plight.

Our training session for today was a repeat of the day before, practice, practice and more practice.

That afternoon, we played the New Zealand Over 50’s Men’s team again but this time they came out harder and stronger than the day before. They were vengeful for a win and prevailed victorious.

Dom was not impressed. He growled us for being complacent just because we won the day before. It was a huge wake up call.

 

Day 4

Wednesday’s morning session was a little more relaxed and only consisted of a team walk and talk of strategies and plays between all us girls.

For the rest of the day we got to support our youth sides in their quest for victory.

Wednesday night’s inaugural dinner with the Australian’s was a most memorable night.

Glen Osborne was the MC and what a delight he turned out to be.

Coincidently, his wife Kylie Osborne played in our Womens 30’s team which is probably how he got the gig?

The format he set before us of New Zealand vs Australia battling on stage in a quiz format and then the dance off session had everyone in complete hysterics.  

My team mate Chantal Baker was fortunate to represent us on stage and boy did she represent! Kia mau te wehi (you’re awesome!).

This was topped off with great food and company. Well done Touch NZ.

Day 5 – First test series game

Thursday morning started out quite grumpy for all us girls as we were summons to the meeting point at 5am in the morning. Are you kidding me? The day of our first big game and Dom has us up at the crack of dawn before the birds are even chirping? We all thought Dom had truly lost his mind!

We walked to our training grounds in silence all thinking that this has to be the worst pre-game preparation ever.

Upon arriving at the grounds I saw a field of training cones and balls. I thought, I can’t even see my team mate let alone train with her in the dark?

Dom gets us to circle up close, then, huddled up in the cold, dark eerie morning he proceeds to tell us his ‘purpose’ of why he’s here.

He tells us about Brooklyn (Bman), his 11 year old son that died from a savage type of cancer in 2012 and how his boy’s strength and courage throughout his therapy became Dom’s inspiration and purpose in life.

Bman told him to continue coaching our team and that he shouldn’t stop doing what he loves.

Dom proceeds to tell us of the pain Bman was subjected to during his treatment sessions, how he sometimes never took the anaestetic because it took too long to kick in and he didn’t want to wait around in the hospital any longer than he had to.

So he bore the brunt of the pain without ever complaining and so began his trade mark call ‘Boom’.

Dom says, Bman once asked him,

“Why me papa Dom, why am I sick? Why am I going to die? Why do I not have enough time to do the things I want to do? There’s never enough time”.

This story touched each and every one of us as the tears flowed freely.

We each stepped forward and told our purpose for why we were here.

There were stories of pain, lost opportunities, regret, depression, heartache, tragedy and self discovery as we all shared our most darkest secrets and in that moment, in the dark, cold, eerie morning, we found something else - we found each other and we were no longer a team – we were now sisters, we were now whanau (family).

I remember saying to Dom afterwards, geez I’m here to battle the Australian’s not be a sooky bubba! So I declared,

”those are the only tears you’ll get from me”.

Thank goodness our captain (Anita Boyd) who couldn’t even remember the last time she had genuinely cried, was only here for her own selfish purpose… and that was to beat the Aussies – that’s my girl, keeping it real!

Game time

I was so excited, the day had finally arrived, I’m about to represent my country against Australia, this is where my dream becomes a reality.

"Some people have dreams, we will now have memories!"

Dom put strict guidelines on us to make sure we stayed focussed and kept our team unit tight with no distractions.

As we walked to the changing rooms with our hoodies on, it definitely felt like we were all in the zone.

Our warm-up was regimented and focussed. Everything we did from here on in had its purpose. We were like soldiers preparing for war, ‘wahine toa’ (strong women).

The intencity of the game was amazing.

Playing against the Australians is like playing a bunch of girls that are fit, skinny and have no fat on their bodies as they whizz past us left and right in their green and gold.

Truth be told, they certainly looked the fitter team yet as this game would dictate, looks aren’t everything as we forged our way to win the game and make history for the first time…..boom!

Brooke James had an outstanding game as she broke our line a few times with her trade mark 32 scoop from dummy half run. Obviously my buddies didn’t take my advice when I said, shut down the brunette!

Kirsten Friend was a real work horse in defence, attack and yards. I’m just glad she didn’t score on me.

I didn’t have much contact with Mel Woodward during this game as they played her on the wing but my gosh I could hear her mouth talking ever so loud and proud. As always Woody, great communication out there.

Being in our sub box with Dom is like being with your best friend. When you come off the field, he greets you, tells you to grab a drink, breathe and then says a few inspiring words like, "reset, refocus and get ready to go back out there – you got this." He doesn’t say a lot but he certainly says enough to keep all us girls focused.

I’d like to thank my middle work horses of the team being Andy Williams, Chantal Baker, Delisha & Lisa Harrison.

Their hard work enabled us attackers the ability to get on fresh, attack and score. We all worked like a well oiled machine, each playing their part in the team to achieve victory.

When victory was ours at the end of the game, an overwhelming feeling of elation touched each and every one of us as we all wanted to jump up in the air with excitement.

Yet our victory is short lived as Dom tells us to be ‘humble’ – "no screaming ladies, humble. Save that for the changing rooms."

At the time I didn’t understand this notion, I mean, we’ve just beaten Australia, no New Zealand Over 30’s Women’s team had ever done that – don’t take that away from us – I want to scream from the top of my lungs and jump around like a crazed woman with excitement and joy, why must we be so coy?

Later Dom tells us that we must not get over excited as it’s only the first game and he knows as well as everyone else that the Australian’s will come back twice as hard and determined as before. He reminds us to not be complacent.

The atmosphere is amazing after the game as Leah Percy comes over to congratulate me. I introduce her to my team as my Open Women’s coach and the girls say,

“I bet she’s trouble huh”.

We head into the changing rooms and all scream like little girls at our victory….how’s that for humble?

 

 

Day 6 – test series two

We start the day at a respectable hour of 8.30am (thank goodness) and the mood in camp is filled with confidence.

Dom and Karl tell us the story of their World Cup victory against Australia with the NZ Senior Mixed team.

The game is tied up even with less than a minute to go on the final hooter.

Australia score a touch down and Dom’s hopes of winning the World Cup come crashing down around him.

Without hesitation, two of his guys grab the ball, run back to half way with one of the ladies and ask the referee for the mark.

The Australian’s haven’t got a full team on the field as they are in congratulatory mode thinking they’ve won the series.

New Zealand make two touches, get to the five and score. The game is even again and goes into a drop-off.

Now, Dom’s confident they will win the drop-off, they’ve practised it time and time again and truth be told, they won the drop-off and the World Cup series in 2010.

Dom tells us that yesterday’s win was great and yes we’ve made history and should be proud of that but we now have a chance to take the series. Let’s show everyone that yesterday wasn’t a fluke.

We just have to believe….just like his World Cup team believed. They never gave up.

He then plays us his tribute clip of his World Cup victory against Australia and it’s amazing.

Once again, we’re inspired to win!

Game time

The game starts off intense as Australia hit us with all they’ve got, they mean business today.

We start off shaky as they take the lead on us 2-0.

We eventually get one back but the match literally goes try for try until the last dying minutes of the game. Australia are up by one try.

In the dying seconds before the final hooter blows, Lovey sets me up on the 5 metre line for one of my trademark quickies, her service is beautiful and I score the try that sends us into a drop-off.

Lovey and I come off the field after attacking and know full well that we’re part of the drop-off team and must now take the field again.

Dom says,

“have a drink, take a breath and then get on the field, you got this Jamie”.

We’re both gasping for air but don’t flinch or hesitate as we walk back onto the field.

I think to myself, this is where champions are made!

We start off with the ball as Lovey and Delisha get to the 5 metre line.

I think to myself, sweet it’s all over. Lovey is the Queen of the 5 metre line, get her to the 5 and she will score.

But alas our efforts go unrewarded as we drop the ball. Hand over to Australia.

Australia ruck the ball back down to their try line as Brooke sets up for a scoop.

My heart pounds as I think, dammit, she will get through and off-load for a try, game over.

Yet her team mate takes the wrong option and tries to switch with Brooke instead of running her hole, opportunity lost – thanks mate, we’ll have the ball back now.

We ruck it back up to half way and by now we’re all feeling pretty fatigued.

The siren goes as we lose yet another play – we’re now down to 4.

Lovey and Delisha run off for a sub which leaves Lorelei, Chantal, me and Angela (who is sent back on-field from Dom when she is trying to sub herself off).

Loreleiplays the ball, Chantal at dummy half passes to Angela who has wrapped on from the sub box.

Angela passes to me and wraps around, the defence shoot up as I pass off a wrap pass to Ang.

The cheers start as we realise Angela is now two on one with one defender left as Chantal has wrapped around the back of me and Angela and is now running out towards the opposite side of the wing from where she originally started.

With ball in hand, Angela dummy’s me infield, turns to the defender in front of her (who is trying to intercept/block the pass) and pops it over the top of the defender to Shorty who runs towards the corner and scores the most memorable try in history.

Angela and I go running into the corner to greet Chantal and scream with excitement at our win as our team mates all follow from the sideline.

No time to be humble now, it’s time to celebrate!!!!

 

 

Day 7

As with every Coach, there comes a time when hard decisions must be made.

On our final test day series poor Davina Thompson was stood down after only playing one game.

A tough decision for her to accept and an even tougher decision for Dom to make.

The whole team felt for her as we all put our hand up to stand down so that she could play.

There wasn’t one of us that thought she didn’t deserve to play yet Dom reminded us that we were there to do a job and that was to win.

Yes we beat Australia once, yes we won the series and we could just be happy with that but to win all three games would go down in history for all the years to come.

It wasn’t about giving up our spot so that our mate could play, it was about completing what we’d set out to do right from the start.

Remember our purpose, refocus on the challenge, finish off as valid victorious winners.

With that in mind, Dom plays us a clip of Bman who we’d all grown to know over the last few days.

It would be the first time we’d actually get to see him and his journey before his passing.

Needless to say, the tears came flowing quite freely again for this courageous young boy who’s strength had inspired us all throughout camp.

It was then that we all knew we were not only doing this for ourselves, our families and our country, we were doing this for Dom and his Bman – our tribute to him…..boom!

It was as if Bman had been guiding and supporting us throughout the series, our guardian angel – Boom!

Game time

Now for some unknown reason our team started to drift somewhat in our pre-game training preparation.

We’re suppose to stay tight as a unit, always moving together, staying focussed together, doing everything together but we start to wonder off in one’s and two’s.

Dom calls us into the changing rooms and tells us the story about the Frog and the Cow.

How the frog was the king of his pond and ruled it with pride and joy. No one was better than this frog.

A neighbouring cow wonders over to the pond to get a drink. He steps over a log and in doing so, steps on the frog and kills it.

 

Dom says,

“you may think you’re at the top of your game but these Australian girls can quite easily squish you because they don’t care who you are”.

Needless to say, we all pulled our heads in!

Our last game was being played on the main field, what a treat! In order to get there we had to walk down the main path that the general public was using.

We’d watched all the previous teams enter from this way.

They’d wonder in, single file, huge gaps between them, some stopping off to say hello to people in the crowd and I thought, hmm, let’s be different.

My da had mentioned to me that the East Coast rugby team he supports would always enter the grounds linked together with their arms on each others shoulders

So in keeping with Dom’s call of keeping our unit tight, we decided to link up with one another and enter from the opposite side of the field thus avoiding contact with anyone…..and we didn’t walk, we jogged.

No team had done this during the competition and it just made us feel ‘quite special’.

Game time

The game started off with yet another hiss and a roar as Australia came out quite tough obviously were vying for a win.

Like the game before, it was a try for try scenario and we were all thinking it was going to be another drop-off situation.

Yet, as history will now show, we managed to hold off the Australian’s and take the series in a clean sweep and thus victorious STT champions!

Celebrations all round as we relished in our history making achievement.

Wrap up

There were a few decisions that Dom made along the way that didn’t always sit well with the team but in hindsight – it seems he knew what he was doing.

Putting Chantal in as a middle when she’d originally started out as a winger – yet with Dom’s blessing and confidence, she went on to score our winning try in the drop off which then won us the series.

Angela who normally plays a ‘link’ role being put in as a winger. Yet she saved so many tries from touching the link and then diving for the winger that I do not believe we could have had the same result had her experience and talent not been there. Not to mention her diving lateral tries to also score back down the other end and who could forget that she set up the pass to Shorty which resulted in us winning the game and series. You go girl!

Lorelei Nathan (no relation to Edith) playing in at link when she normally plays a middle. That’s what she plays in her Bullets team. She’s a work horse and as such, wanted to get out there and work her butt off. Yet by Dom putting her at link meant that she was able to shine in our final test match as she scooped through from dummy half to set up two tries.

Coincidence? I think not, sheer brilliance I reakon.

Acknowledgments

I’d like to thank my other team mates for their awesome effort in winning the STT series and for making history in the process.

  1. First Over 30's Women's team to ever win a game against Australia
  2. First Over 30's Women's team and Women's team in general to ever win a series against Australia
  3. First Women's team EVER to do a complete 'black wash' of the series.

These are my sisters with the playing numbers they represented in:

1.  Lovey Woodhouse (Ashvey)

Queen of the 5 metre line and my home girl. Absolutely love playing with you – all day everyday!

 

2.  Lisa Harrison (Dirty Harry)

Great work rate in defence, attack and yards cuzzy – representing East Coast hard.

 

4.  Anita Boyd (Nita and Captain)

Anita Boyd – Great leader, allround player and sportsman. Even sacrificed your 20 year anniversary of togetherness with Scott to stay with us and speak game plan. Now that’s dedication!

5.  Andrea Williams (Andy)

Such a work horse in defence, attack and rucking even with a broken wrist. Still wondering who’s protecting our streets if you’re out partying?

 

6,  Serena Albert (See)

Serena Albert – another Kiwi living in Brisbane who put her hand up to play for New Zealand. Strong attacking and defending throughout the series, your brother would be proud!

 

7.  Edith Nathan (E)

Edith Nathan – It’s true what they say, you really are Ms Touchie. You know your stuff E and proved it out there on the field. Now you can hold your head high when you go back to your local competition in Manly, NSW and say,

“Yeah, we won Trans-Tassie.

8.  Kylie Osborne (Ky)

Kylie Osborne – Loved your talk on the wing and your calming, nurturing nature of encouragement. Especially loved seeing you dive for touches so that the Australian’s didn’t score – no tries here! For the record, I don’t think you’re a vegetable.

9.   Jamie Te Pania (J-Gurl, Pink Panther and Ashmie)

10. Lorelei Nathan (Ashlei)

Your nickname should really be workhorse but I like Ashlei better. Thanks for having my back, all day every day. Your Bullet’s club would be proud.

 

11. Bianca Nuku (Anks)

Loved your talk from the wing and your explosive inclusive in yards. You’re a little pocket rocket!

 

12. Chantal Baker (Shorty)

Shorty Baker, what can I say. Just a stella performance girl – not bad, not bad at all.

 

13. Angela McKay (Ang or McKay)

McKay, you pulled out the goods when we needed it most and brought home the gold.

 

14. Delisha Wipa (Dee or Ashlisha)

My Galaxy homegirl. What can I say, we’ve definitely come full circle haven’t we? Thank you for always being my buddy, for your antics, your humour and your love. So sorry about the ‘joookkkeess’ try.

 

15. Davina Thompson (Dove or Muscles)

For taking the sacrifice so that we could play the final test game and win. You may not have played that game but you’re still a very important part of it.

 

16. Lisa Foster (Tracey or Jody)

Lisa Foster – Loved your talk from the wing, your inclusion in yards and your defence was amazing. Now if I could just figure out which personality was playing next to me between Lisa, Tracey and Jody, we’ll be right.

Lastly, to Margaret our physio, who fixed our broken bodies and kept us on the field. Andy really wanted to take you home because you give good massages.

My Petey, for your continual support, encouragement and advice. You’re my rock!

Can’t forget my awesome kids, Alex, Koro, Cooper, Keshena and Roxy who never complained when I was always out training or at touch.

Ma and da for following me around New Zealand to support my various touch campaigns.

Dom, for sharing the Bman with me and for being one of my most inspiring coaches

Karl, for making sure all our needs were met on and off the field so that we only had to focus on playing. You’re truly amazing Karl and we love you!

Peter Walters, for believing in me, your counsel and teaching me the Galaxy 101’s – where it all began. You must have been so proud to see three of your original Galaxy girls (me, Lovey and Delisha) out there carving it up.

Leah Percy  and Elies El Chaar for giving me my come back season into representative touch. If you’re ever fortunate to train under these two, you’ll be amazed. They really know their stuff. On Sunday 24th February 2013 I will go head to head against Leah as our teams battle for supremacy to win the VT championship. I don’t like playing against Leah, one because she’s a good player but moreso because she’s so hard to get angry with. She’s too damn nice!

My job, for allowing me so much time off work to represent my country. Although, my boss is Australian so I nearly never had a job when I came back after winning.

Aftermath

It’s surreal being back in Melbourne now.

My family and friends are all so proud of what we achieved.

Kiwi’s based in Australia are thinking of representing NZ themselves for the World Cup in 2015. So being the influence to inspire others is great.

Funny moments

Shorty and Delisha doing a rap duet.

Lovey, me, Delisha and Lorelei always getting mistaken for one another on and off the field by spectators and our own family………….. only for Lovey to declare,

“I don’t know how that’s happening because I’m soooooo the prettiest!”

What you’ve learnt?

I’ve learnt from this camp that life is too short and the time we have is too precious to not live it to its fullest.

Take every opportunity that presents itself, if it’s not there, seek out what you desire and remember the 3 P’s.

Make time for your friends and family especially your kids.

Don’t live with regret of things you haven’t or couldn’t achieve, strive for those now – you still have time, we all do.




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