Tyla Nathan-Wong first made rugby history when she became the youngest player ever to be selected for the NZ Women’s 7s team.
That was back in 2012 when she was just 18-years-old. And since bursting onto the field, she as continued to impress; as a key member of the Sevens World Cup team a year later, going on to win a Silver medal at the Rio Olympics and be named the New Zealand Sevens Player-of-the-Year.
Now aged 23, she is one of the more experienced players in the Black Ferns 7’s team. Her successes in the sport since have been nothing short of amazing; even a constant stream of injuries can’t seem to slow her down.
The 2016-17 season was the first that Tyla got through injury free, but even then she carried a hip niggle through the last three tournaments.
“It wasn’t until the off-season that I got my body reassessed. This resulted in finding out that I had a labral tear of the hip. I had to see a surgeon to find out whether surgery was required.”
She managed to sidestep her way around surgery and took over the captaincy duties from Sarah Goss in the last two tournaments of the Women’s 7’s World Series where the team went on to win convincingly.
However, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing; the playmaker suffered horrendous run of injuries leading into the Olympics last year, where she was unable to play a game in the six months before leading up to the Rio tournament.
Not even this could stop Tyla from helping her teammates to an Olympic silver medal.
Even though my body wasn’t physically functioning at 100 percent, I focused on mentally being present and focused. This helped a lot and allowed me to get through the season.
“Injuries are a part of sport. For me, it’s about accepting that it has happened as soon as you can and then doing everything in your power to get back – by listening to your support team, doing the rehab and working hard on the areas that you can.”
Post Rio, there have been sweeping changes to the Black Ferns 7s set up, with a new coach, new management staff and a big culture shift.
It’s these changes Tyla believes have been critical to the team’s success in 2017 where they won five of six World Series tournaments; only dropping one game to the USA during the Gold Coast leg.
“This is due to our new head coach Allan Bunting, the rest of the management team and us as players creating an awesome environment and culture where everyone feels valid and can be themselves. It is like one big family and we work hard for each other on and off the field.”
With the Women’s Rugby World Cup taking place in 2017, the 7s team was missing a many of its star players for the tail end of the campaign. Tyla missed out on the trial due to injury but recovered in time to be handed the captaincy duties for the last two tournaments of the season.
“Being able to captain our country and this team was incredible. I was extremely proud and honoured to be given that responsibility. I didn’t feel much pressure at all as the environment that we have created gave me confidence.”
Tyla prefers to lead by example than do a lot of talking and felt like the environment and girls around her made the captaincy easy and helped her feel relaxed.
For someone to be constantly battling injury in such a heavy contact sport, Tyla Nathan-Wong really is a tough nut. Her resilience is just one of the attributes that make her such a great leader for the Black Ferns 7s sisters. She has also represented New Zealand in touch rugby.
Family support is another key part of her success and Tyla credits her dad and grandfather with igniting her passion for the sport and teaching her the basic skills.
New Zealand Women’s Sevens (2012- present)
Maori Women’s Sevens (2012)
Auckland Women’s Sevens (2012- present)
NZ Women’s Touch team (2010 – present)
NZ U19 Women’s Touch Team (2011)