Tears flowed back in 2019 when Amy Rule's bags were packed on the floor of her mum’s house in Riverton, Southland, as she readied herself for an unknown rugby adventure.
The then 18-year-old had secured a scholarship to study at Lincoln University, 600 km from home, and an opportunity to be part of the successful Canterbury Rugby system.
Three years later, those bags again lay packed, this time on the floor of her Christchurch flat awaiting her next rugby adventure. Departing as a Black Fern for their Northern Tour, taking on England and France in preparation for next year’s Women’s Rugby World Cup.
“I’m excited and nervous all at the same time. To have this opportunity so early on in my rugby career is something I could never have imagined back then.” Rule said.
The tight head prop credits her rapid rise from non-player to Black Fern in just 3 years to the support from Canterbury Women’s High Performance Manager Amanda Murphy, among others.
“Once I understood where I could go with rugby I decided to focus right in and push for that opportunity and a lot of that comes from the care and support of Murph.”
“She’s been there from the start. I was an 18-year-old in a new city, making mistakes, having fun away from home, but she’s so good to have in your corner; you can go into her office and cry too if you need, she’s been massive on my development.”
“I really struggled in that first year, away from home, on scholarship and part of the high-performance program. I had all these requirements and demands on me and my time, I struggled to come to grips with all of that.
I’d never considered becoming a Black Fern, but the switch came a year later, making a transition to what I want in life, which is when I decided that I officially want to represent my country, turning from just being a player and wanting to play for the enjoyment to wanting to be a Black Fern and represent NZ.”
Murphy's support and Rule's talent saw her named in the Black Ferns Development team that competed in the 2019 Oceania Rugby Women's Championship against Australia A, Fijiana, Manusina, Tonga and Papua New Guinea Palais.
Canterbury Farrah Palmer Cup forwards Coach Whitney Hansen is another of those who’ve contributed to the development of Rule.
“One of the biggest things Whit has taught me is about kindness. We live in a world where you can judge yourself all the time and be really hard on yourself, others can have an opinion on what you do etc, but it’s important to be kind to yourself and just work on being better, without being so hard on yourself.”
Rule remembers her introduction to the game, initially training with the Riverton senior men’s side as part of training for rowing.
“Unfortunately, there’s not a great deal of focus on women’s rugby in Southland, so my perception was ‘women’s rugby? … that’s a thing men do!’
However after an all-girls game in Dunedin, her passion for the game quickly escalated as she found acceptance and a real sense of belonging, “That’s the great part of rugby, there’s a spot for everyone, if you’re six foot four you can play lock or if you’re small and fast it could be on the wing. For me, growing up, I was bigger than most girls and some sports didn’t really cater or support me to play, but to come to rugby and be accepted for who I am is so cool.”
Ironically, just as her travels around the country are due to Rugby, her first international flight was also be due to the game and it has now taken her to the other side of the globe, “I’m just a country girl from the bottom of the South Island, one of the reasons I wanted to go to Canterbury was experience.”
Rule has been named in the Black Ferns side to take on France this weekend which will bring up just her second appearance for the Ferns.