From her favourite TV show to her childhood hero

Who is Les Elder: Ten things you should know about the Black Ferns captain

Back-rower Les Elder was appointed Black Ferns captain in 2019 after helping New Zealand win the World Cup two years prior. Here are more facts about her rugby journey.

Ten things you should know about Les Elder

1. Les Elder (nee Ketu) was born on 10 January 1987 in Taumarunui, New Zealand. She weighs 10st 5lb (66kg) and is 5ft 5in (166cm) tall.

2. She played rugby (and netball) growing up but the lack of an oval-ball pathway in Waikato when she was in her late teens meant she took a years-long break from the sport.

She started playing rugby again in her early twenties while living in Australia and then returned to New Zealand to take it more seriously.

3. Her favourite TV show is Friends and she enjoys the Taringa Podcast about Maori myths and legends.

4. Richie McCaw was her childhood rugby hero. She says: “I played openside flanker at high school and I didn’t know the Black Ferns, they weren’t as highly exposed as they are now, so I aspired to be like him.”

5. She was part of New Zealand’s 2017 Rugby World Cup-winning squad, which is one of her three rugby highlights.

Her others are her Black Ferns debut in 2015 aged 28 and captaining her country for the first time in 2019.

6. Elder is a proud Maori and makes sure that culture is incorporated into the Black Ferns’ environment.

“It’s part of our responsibility to celebrate the culture of this country so the people who support us see that,” she told Rugby World.

7. She suffered a serious leg injury in 2016 that some feared might end her career but she recovered to play in the following year’s World Cup.

8. She signed for the Chiefs for the first Super Rugby Aupiki season in 2022.

9. Elder is married to John and the couple have a daughter, Mihiterena. She says returning to rugby after becoming a mother is the hardest thing she’s ever done.

“I was pretty naïve about what your body goes through. I had a good pregnancy and was able to train – I trained the morning I went into labour – but then I had to have a C-section.

“The physical side I knew would be hard. Then there is the emotional battle of leaving my daughter to go training, that bit of guilt. When I look back on it, I’m really proud of what I was able to achieve.”

Related: Les Elder – “I trained the day I went into labour”

10. While she has backpacked through Europe, she says her best holiday was in New Zealand with her husband.

She says: “Me and my husband jumped in the truck and went up the West Coast and down the East Coast. We’d sleep in a tent and lived really basically for two weeks. It was really cool.”

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