24 Aug 2018

Climbing above adversity: Black Fern Jackie Patea-Fereti

11:52 am on 24 August 2018

The Black Ferns do battle with Australia at Eden Park tomorrow night as they aim to sweep the two-match series, but for player in particular, just being there will be the realisation of a dream, and reward for never giving up.

Jackie Patea-Fereti wins a line out. Australian Wallaroos v New Zealand Black Ferns. 2018 Test Match. ANZ Stadium, Sydney.

Jackie Patea-Fereti wins a line out. Australian Wallaroos v New Zealand Black Ferns. 2018 Test Match. ANZ Stadium, Sydney. Photo: Clay Cross / PHOTOSPORT

Jackie Patea-Fereti has demonstrated dedication beyond belief to reclaim a place in the Black Ferns.

First selected for in 2012, the Wellington lock had her sights set on a first World Cup last year, but two serious injuries cruelled her chances and threatened to end her career.

However Patea-Fereti wasn't going to let go of her dream, her father's fight with cancer giving her new perspective.

"My Dad he had prostate cancer, so he was going through that at the same time, I was looking after my nine-year-old son, sorry I'm getting teary. When you suffer from cancer, the patient themselves goes through a lot of pain. When you have lots of injuries as a player, it's nothing like going through what someone with cancer is going through. But my Dad was so strong and I was using his strength to help me carry on with training."

But when her Dad lost his battle, she thought about stepping away from the game.

"He passed away in November and although I'd been asked to trial for the Black Ferns I didn't want to play anymore, not because of the injuries but because of my Dad. But my Dad's always told me that if you get opportunities in life you take them as best as you can because they're blessings from God.

"That was something he taught me and so I wanted to honour him by doing that. So we (Jackie, her husband and son) converted half our garage into a gym and I started doing extra training's, I'd come home after work and do training in my garage while my son did his homework so I could watch over him as well."

Those hard times making the 32-year-old's Black Ferns recall all the more sweet.

"Got a txt from Wes Clarke (Black Ferns forwards coach), but it was like the txt I got last time I missed out so I thought, oh man I haven't made it. I was upset but trying to hide it as I was on the way home from training with my husband and son. I called him back and he told me I had made it and I started getting teary eyed and my son ran to me and started jumping for joy, and then we all got together and prayed, it was a special moment."

Team-mate Eloise Blackwell believes Patea-Fereti and the other Black Ferns' mums are an inspiration.

"We always talk about having two jobs, well Jax and the other women in our team who have children have another job again. How they manage to balance their time with their family and their kids as well as work and rugby, it's pretty amazing."

Patea-Fereti's Wellington coach Ross Bond said her mental strength is second to none.

"First time I met her, I walked away going jeez (sic) you are impressive. Off the field she has that leadership quality, as soon as you meet her you understand why she's been a captain of so many teams. When she's speaking you can hear a pin drop in the room, that's the mana that she has."

And Bond believes her work ethic is inimitable.

"The women have to make sure that the family fires are burning and the kids are looked after. So there's a whole portfolio of things to get done before they actually get to training. For someone like Jackie who's come through two potentially career ending injuries at the age of 32, it's just outstanding."

With wahine like Patea-Fereti in the Black Ferns, it's hard to see the Wallaroos coming close tomorrow night at Eden Park.