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Born to dare: Black Ferns captain Sarah Hirini on empowering the next generation

13 October 2021

The captain of the Black Ferns sevens shares her passion for women's sport, inspiring youth, and what it means to be one of Aotearoa's first contracted female rugby players.

Black Ferns sevens captain and Tudor ambassador Sarah Hirini. Image: courtesy of Tudor.

Sarah Hirini is no stranger to a challenge. As the captain of the Black Ferns sevens team—and one of the first female players to gain a rugby contract in Aotearoa—Hirini’s sporting career has gone from strength to strength. She’s led the Black Ferns to victory numerous times: winning the 2017 World Cup, gold at both the 2018 Commonwealth Games and Sevens World Cup, and has been recognised for her services to women’s rugby, joining the New Zealand Order of Merit 2019.  

While women’s rugby is constantly growing as a global sport, Hirini is aware that there is much work to do in educating young women about what it means to be a professional athlete both on and off the field. Here, Hirini speaks with Fashion Quarterly about her partnership with Tudor, and how their combined passion to be daring, bold, and innovative, is set to inspire young athletes worldwide. 

Sarah, you were one of Aotearoa’s first contracted female rugby players. Can you tell us more about how that felt, and the many changes you’ve observed since then in women’s sport—particularly rugby?

I was so excited to receive my first professional playing contract, knowing how much of a step forward it was for women’s rugby in New Zealand. I remember feeling a huge sense of pride in that moment as it had been a dream of mine since I first started playing rugby. It’s been nearly 10 years since then and a lot has changed. In that time, the women’s game both here in New Zealand and globally has grown immensely. We’ve seen that growth reflected in participation numbers and through investment and resources to grow the game and create development opportunities for the young players coming through. 

As a Tudor ambassador, can you tell us what “Born to Dare” means to you?

“Born to Dare” directly relates to me through my journey in rugby, daring to inspire a new generation of young girls and boys and show them that being a professional rugby player is a possibility now. 

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What does the support of a luxury brand like Tudor mean for the Black Ferns?

Having Tudor’s support means a lot to our team. By investing in women’s rugby, Tudor are acknowledging our team, and that we are daring in the way we play. Their support means so much and I hope we are able to work together to help so many more people in the game.

What personal values of yours align with the Tudor spirit?

The daring attitude and spirit to create opportunities in life. Being able to be aligned with such a strong value is really important. I’ve always tried to live my own life through being passionate about what I do.

Images: courtesy of Tudor.

Can you describe your personal style—both sartorially, and how you conduct yourself on and off the field?

I’m all about comfort and good simple design done well. I love the summer months as it means linen outfits with a styled t-shirt. I love an occasion to wear a nice tailored blazer as well.

When you’re off the playing field, you’re on the training field coaching and empowering youth to excel in rugby. Can you tell us more about this and why inspiring the next generation is so important to you and the sport?

For me it’s about creating opportunities to share the love of the game with the next generation. I feel I have so much to share and while women’s rugby is constantly on the rise, there are still limited opportunities for girls to learn about what it means to be a professional athlete on and off the field. I want to show them the positive experience I have had and share what I’ve learnt along the way.

What is your personal mantra? 

My personal mantra is to love what I do and be passionate about it. I love goal setting and the process of working towards achieving these goals through fun and hard work. 

What was the last thing you learned?

The last thing I learned was a paper on Meteorology in Aviation.

While keeping physically fit comes with the territory of leading the Black Ferns, are there any tools or rituals that you practice daily to ensure you are just as mentally fit, too?

I work a lot on my mental health as I know how important this is to be happy and get what I need out of the day. I start the day early, spending time at the beach with my dog. It’s the first place I can ground myself through nature. I then take time with my husband to talk about our day, setting our intentions and reflect on what we enjoyed about the day before. At the end of the day I like to finish by reading a book, being present and winding down before bed.

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