2 May 2024

Farm life helps shape new Black Fern

1:00 pm on 2 May 2024
New Black Fern Hannah King playing for Canterbury in 2023.

New Black Fern Hannah King playing for Canterbury in 2023. Photo: Photosport

Newly-named Black Fern Hannah King was so emotional when she called her parents to tell them the news that they thought there was an emergency.

"My parents weren't home, so I called them in tears, and they were, like, 'What's happened to the farm?' I told them, 'Nothing's happened to the farm'."

Instead, the 20-year-old told them that her childhood dream had been realised.

"I just got a phone call. I didn't know the number, but it was Bunts (Allan Bunting) and my stomach just dropped. It was real emotional. I'm real honoured to be here, it was a pretty surreal feeling, one to remember for a lifetime for sure."

Growing up in rural Canterbury, King said farm life had helped mould the player she was.

"My parents worked real hard to get that farm going, so that work ethic they have has really played with me in the rugby scene. I've always wanted to have that drive."

It also helped her escape the rigours of rugby.

"It's quite nice having something outside rugby that is my my passion. I love looking after animals and riding horses, so it's quite nice to have the best of both worlds."

The young playmaker had been mentored by one of the Black Ferns' greatest since she was a teenager, Kendra Cocksedge.

"Kendra's been a massive help for me, she's from a similar background and just has so much knowledge. Anytime I need anything, she's just on the end of the phone. She's always been a massive help and a big part in helping me get to where I am at the moment."

Hannah King has been mentored by one of the Black Ferns legend Kendra Cocksedge since she was a teenager.

Hannah King has been mentored by one of the Black Ferns legend Kendra Cocksedge since she was a teenager. Photo: Photosport

King was one of three new faces in the Black Ferns squad alongside Maama Vaipulu and Maia Joseph for the upcoming Pacific Four Series which kicks off against the USA on 11 May in Hamilton.

Iritana Hohaia returns for her second season with the Ferns and said the energy was palpable.

"It's definitely exciting, new players, and we have a new group learning to build together."

The halfback said she was now stepping out of the shadow of her legendary predecessor, having taken over the number nine jersey from Cocksedge.

However, Hohaia said she had a different style and would look to build on the foundation Cocksedge laid.

"She has been in that number nine jersey for a long time and left a great legacy. I think it's how I can add value to the jersey and what I can bring, we're both different players so continue to build on what she's built and making sure I can continue to add to the jersey."

Hurricanes Poua halfback Iritana Hohaia.

Iritana Hohaia. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Assistant coach Tony Christie said a form 15 picked from Super Rugby Aupiki's best each week helped them finalise their squad.

He said the standards had noticeably lifted in Aupiki, reflected in the consistent changes to their selections, and that in turn had created serious competition within the squad.

"It was a method we used to make sure that we didn't have biases hanging from the previous squad, and there's always debate which is healthy because we will see it from different angles and different views depending on our role within the team."

After suffering losses to France and England last October and November, Christie said it had been a long wait to get back on the park to seek redemption.

The Ferns will also play Canada in Christchurch on 19 May and Australia in Albany on 25 May.

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