After a troubled childhood, Ruby Tui has become the glue that holds the Womens NZ Sevens team together, Oliver Pickup reports.
Ruby Tui: Sevens Transformed My Life
Twelve months ago, a stinging 31-0 defeat to the hosts in the final of the HSBC Sydney Sevens served as motivation for Ruby Tui and her New Zealand teammates to redouble their efforts and redress the trans-Tasman balance.
Since that disappointing loss, the Black Ferns Sevens have won everything going. That includes the Commonwealth Games (the first time women’s sevens was included) – on the Gold Coast, against Australia in the final, and in extra time to boot – and the World Cup, held in San Francisco last July.
An additional five consecutive HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series tournaments saw them finish last year’s campaign two points shy of Australia in the overall table, excruciatingly, but a brace of titles this term has extended their incredible purple patch.
Going into this year’s HSBC Sydney Sevens, where the women’s competition takes place in conjunction with the men’s event, it’s fair to say this time around the New Zealanders are not-so-quietly confident of their chances in the back yard of the reigning Olympic champions.
As the heart of the seemingly indomitable side, whose players have Tokyo 2020 in their long-range sights, is 5’10” prop Ruby Tui. This week the injured Portia Woodman, top scorer in the 2017-18 HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series, with 43 tries in five rounds, described the 27-year old as “the one that keeps our team together”.
The 2017 World Rugby Women’s Player of the Year elaborated: “If you step out of line or are not being true to who you are she is going to tell you honestly and in the most respectful way. She is a clown, a dancer, a joker, the girl who will speak out for everyone who doesn’t have a voice. She is absolutely the gel for our team.”
Tui is a stellar talent, on and off the pitch, though she has some back story, and her journey to the pinnacle of sevens has been rocky. Indeed, it is the star’s troubled childhood and adolescence – pockmarked by an alcoholic father, who split with her mother, leading to time spent in a women’s refuge – that has driven her passion for sporting glory.
A film, produced by HSBC and released to coincide with this weekend’s tournament in Sydney, profiles Tui and delves into the darker corners of her background.
It is clear that sport in general and sevens in particular altered the course her life was taking. “As a kid I did a lot of mucking around and got up to no good,” she tells me. “It’s amazing to see where I am now. When I was young I had no idea what my future would look like. I just knew that I wanted something better than my family had, and I wanted to makes them proud.”
Tui, who has been a permanent fixture for the Black Ferns Sevens since her debut in 2012, explains that the process of recording the HSBC film left her feeling “humbled” and wanting to provide navigation for others who might be in dire straits.
“If anyone is going through anything [difficult], or there are kids out there who don’t know where their life could go, my career goes to show that no matter where you come from or what you are doing you can still have an amazing life because of a passion for sport,” she continues.
“It is good that HSBC wants to show the world of sevens, and where we started out. We have an amazing life, travelling the world all the time, but we are still normal people and started from somewhere.”
Tui adds: “It’s really important to me to tell my story, because my past makes me strive to be the best person and sevens player I can be. I’m now living the dream.”
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