From Saturday 8 October, the Rugby World Cup will descend on Auckland and Whangarei. This is the ninth edition of the women’s cup, which our Black Ferns have won five times! To celebrate the Cup coming home, Oliver Hall sits down with squad members: Natalie Delamere, Kendra Reynolds and Amy Du Plessis to discuss LGBTQ+ acceptance in the sport, and why we should all be getting behind our girls.

As we sit down for a chat at Christchurch’s Crowne Plaza on Thursday 18 August, fresh from practice, the girls are buzzing about their upcoming match against Australia’s Wallaroos. Natalie is sporting a bloody grazed knee that compliments Kendra’s bruised lip. The hard practice session clearly worked in their favour, they thrashed the Wallaroos in a 52-5 landslide victory.

World Cup number six feels like it’s destined and the team want to see all Kiwis get behind them. “It’s supporting females in sport, and supporting females in leadership,” Kendra (Ngāti Ranginui) tells us, praising coach Whitney Hansen. “And Beyond that, it’s about supporting your country. We have the fern on our chest. We are the team for every New Zealander. So by coming to the games, people are actually showing their love for their country,” she concludes.


“The more fans that buy tickets now, the bigger that’s going to be,” adds Amy enthusiastically.

Natalie (Te Whānau-a-Apanui) is the quietest of the trio, but her few words hold weight and depth.

Raised in small town Murupara in the Bay of Plenty, Natalie followed her sister’s passion for rugby, which was forbidden by both her mother and her sister who told her, “that’s my sport!” Natalie was enamoured with the physicality and challenge that rugby presented so asked her father, who finally gave her permission to play. Her career took her from Waikato to Spain to Tauranga, where she is currently based.

Black Ferns: Natalie Delamere, Amy Du Plessis and Kendra Reynolds, by Rachael Whareaitu.

The road has not been a smooth one, but Natalie’s unwavering passion for rugby has brought her success.

“I was going through a rough time in my life. I had just finished the Farrar Palmer Cup season, and our coach basically said, “you played shit this season, but you’ve got a lot of potential to go further if you change your position.” Natalie changed from number eight to hooker and made the move to Tauranga where she lives and practises with other Ferns. “I dropped everything back home, quit my job, packed my car up. I literally just followed my heart and did what made me happy. So here I am!” She says humbly.

For Kendra, it was the promise of ‘getting out of class’ that drew her to rugby at school. “They used to do big trips, and I was like, ‘oh, you get to leave at lunchtime,” she tells us with a chuckle. “But from the very first moment I stepped onto the field, I knew I wanted to be a Black Fern and was determined to make it happen.”

It took Kendra ten years to get into the black jersey, inspired by her cousin Kelly who was already on the team. “I just remember being in awe of her and her teammates and the connection that they had. Rugby just seemed like this amazing place where your friends became like family, and everybody is celebrated. That’s probably why I fell in love with it. I was a little chubby kid in high school. I wasn’t good at other sports, but I was good at Rugby!”

Amy, who was born in South Africa and moved to Aotearoa at seven, reflects that “women’s rugby is so much more out there now for young girls growing up. I was just someone that turned up each week and really enjoyed the sport. I didn’t think too far into the future about a professional career.” Luckily her natural skill for the sport saw opportunities arise at Otago and Canterbury, as well as on the national team.

Unlike the men’s teams, the Black Ferns have multiple openly-gay players including Ruby Tui and Kelly Brazier.

Black Ferns: Natalie Delamere, Amy Du Plessis and Kendra Reynolds, by Rachael Whareaitu.

Amy, Kendra and Natalie, all consider themselves allies and tell us that the amount they tour overseas, necessitates a close bond between all teammates.

“When we’re away from our families, we are each other’s family. It’s really important we are providing a space where everyone feels safe to be who they are. We believe that when you’re authentically yourself, in every aspect, it’s going to cross over to freedom on the field. We just want to show each other love and be ourselves. Hopefully that transitions into performance,” Kendra tells us.

All three players tell us they think it would be harder for an All Black to come out than a Black Fern. Amy puts that down to the huge amount of limelight that comes with being part of that team and often sees them judged harshly on many aspects of their lives and how it affects their performance on the pitch.

Kendra hopes a gay player could be publicly ‘out’ and an All Black. “It’s just so normal here. There are so many openly lesbian rugby players. There’s wife and wife,” she says, nodding to engaged Ferns Portia Woodman and Renee Wickliffe. “Hopefully if there was a [gay] player on the All Blacks they do feel courageous enough to be themselves and everyone will support them.”

All of the girls deny having heard or seen any homophobic behaviour in the women’s sport, but Natalie admits, “that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.”

Black Ferns: Natalie Delamere, Amy Du Plessis and Kendra Reynolds, by Rachael Whareaitu.

Kendra brings up a recent online incident involving Brisbane Broncos winger Julia Robinson, and the heartening support she received from other players.

When images of the Broncos training were released on social media, a picture of Julia holding a ball attracted over 200 comments, mostly body shaming her muscular physique.

Kendra tells us, “the really cool thing that’s happened in the female sporting community, is that every single player that I know, has been rallying around [Julia] hyping her up and pointing out the fact that her body is a result of constant commitment!”

“We are here to defend each other,” confirms Amy. “We go to bat for each other when any of that stuff happens.”

Support and camaraderie aren’t the only things rugby fans who have never watched a Black Ferns game are missing out on. Like other newer sports, women’s rugby is constantly evolving.

“Previously, a woman’s game didn’t have a lot of kicking,” Kendra explains. “That was something girls weren’t learning because they weren’t kicking a footy with mum or dad at five years old, and we probably still not fully reaping the rewards of this new generation of girls that are playing from a young age yet, but we heading in that direction… So we tend to play a lot more phases and keep the ball in hand for longer than men do. We are playing an electric style of keeping the ball alive!”

So essentially a faster game with fewer pauses in the action. I know what I would rather be watching!

Amy agrees and reminds us that for the Black Ferns, today’s successes are all about motivating the next generation: “We showcase a really cool style of rugby which can inspire young girls, so it’s really important that parents actually make the effort to come to our games and help girls aspire to be something great!”

For more information on the Black Ferns visit

To buy tickets to the Rugby World Cup games visit

Photos | Rachael Whareaitu.