The Olympic dream just got a little closer for 49 young women from around the country who have been hand-picked for the next phase of the Go4Gold New Zealand Women's Sevens programme.
New Zealand Women's Rugby Sevens Coach Sean Horan has named his first squad of players to take part in national several training camps over the next few months.
The players were chosen following a comprehensive recruitment drive as part of the national Go4Gold programme, from which over 1,000 female athletes were registered.
New Zealand women’s rugby has received funding in the past year from Sport New Zealand (formerly SPARC) which has helped accelerate its sevens programme and appoint Horan as a fulltime coach.
Over the past few months NZRU high performance staff has been travelling to 14 Provincial Unions in 2012 looking for talented female athletes who want the chance to be a part of the programme.
The ultimate goal of the programme is to select and develop a women's Sevens team to contest for a gold medal in the Rio de Janeiro Summer Games in 2016, when the game makes its Olympic debut for both men and women.
The last of 14 talent identification camps was held in Counties Manukau last week and athletes have been drawn from a wide range of sporting codes, including football, netball, rowing and hockey.
While Horan has selected a large number of new faces from other sport in his first squad, there are also plenty of players included who are regulars in the Black Ferns XVs side. These include the likes of Kendra Cocksedge, Carla Hohepa, Linda Itunu and Huriana Manuel.
"We have now identified an initial group of players that will form the base of our programme as we work towards Rio," said Horan.
"These players have been given development programmes to work on and we will monitor their progress through a series of domestic training camps over the next 12 months," he said.
New Zealand will finally begin attending invitational international tournaments in the latter half of the year to further develop the team and they are already automatically qualified for the 2013 Sevens World Cup in Moscow due to their top four placing in 2009.
"These first eight or nine months have really been about building a base of players here at home that will form the foundations of our Olympic programme. We believe that this will put us in the best position in four years' time to be on that podium in Rio," he added.
Initially just 28 players will attend the first of the next phase of camps at the Waiouru Military Training Facility from 8-10 June while camps involving the wider group of players will take place later in the year.
The 28 players selected for the Waiouru Camp are:
Wellington Shakira Baker, Hilla Fukofuka
Canterbury Kendra Cocksedge, Kelsey Berryman, Ruby Tui, Lucy Ryan, Hannah Brand
Waikato Chyna Hohepa, Jordan Webber, Carla Hohepa, Honey Hireme
Manawatu Selica Winiata, Sarah Goss, Kristina Sue
Taranaki Lauren Burgess, Michaela Blyde
Auckland Charlene Halapua, Mere Hufunga, Tyla Nathan-Wong, Kayla McAlister, Linda Itunu,Huriana Manuel
North Harbour Amanda Rasch
Hawkes Bay Candis Cardie
Otago Soraya Umaga-Jensen, Halie Hurring
Counties Hazel Tubic, Marama Davis
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