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From the rugby field to the classroom – enhancing our mahi

  • Chantal with the Australian Rugby 7s team
    Chantal (3rd from left) with the Australian Rugby 7s team

This Olympics, Unitec Sports and Recreation lecturer Chantal Bakersmith was keenly watching the Women’s Rugby Sevens take to the field after spending time with the teams while they trained under COVID restrictions. Outside of her work with Unitec, Chantal has been heavily involved in women’s rugby since high school, first as a player and then on the development side with Auckland and New Zealand Rugby.

This led to her working as the liaison officer to the Australian Women’s Rugby Seven’s team when they played in New Zealand in May as part of the build-up to the Tokyo Olympics.

Chantal says it was a great opportunity for her.

 “I love team environments, observing team dynamics and learning about the different components that make a good teamwork, especially in sport. This Liaison role was extra special because it was part of the build up to the Olympics. Being able to work with and see the best in the world from both teams operate was really insightful. Experiences and roles like these, I think, bring some credibility to me for my students/tauira as their lecturer.”

She says experience like this is vital for sports lecturers.

“Any knowledge I have in the industry, I bring to the classroom to share with my students. My professional development enhances my teaching.”

Covid restrictions meant both the Australian and New Zealand Women’s and Men’s teams prepared together in a Trans-Tasman bubble, playing in tournaments to emulate the Olympic experience. This saw them compete against the Black Fern’s, across three days, and one of these days included exhibition fixtures before and after a Blues’ game at Eden Park in Auckland.

The next stage of the competition was across the Tasman, where the men’s and women’s teams representing Fiji, New Zealand and Oceania met in Townsville to compete in the Oceania Sevens.

The tournament, in which each team played six matches, provided the Australian, Fiji and New Zealand teams with another chance to have meaningful matches ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Although Chantal’s loyalties lie with the Black Ferns, she says her experience with the Australian team meant she watched  the tournament with great interest to see how all the Oceania teams fared.

“Our Black Ferns team is sooo good! In their skills and especially their culture, I got to witness this first-hand and it was impressive, really quite inspiring. The Black Ferns and the Aussies were equal favourites for Gold, however, this was the Olympics and anything could happen. Even-though the Black Ferns beat the Aussies in both build up comps, you wouldn’t wipe them out. They are gutsy and skilled, and they were the 2016 Olympic champions. Yet sometimes the pressure of expectations can be too much for a team to handle. I’m not too familiar with the other Nations who could be under-dog threats, so we’ll see what happens?”

Fortunately for Chantal, the Black Ferns overcame some early stumbles to take out the gold medal, making the final against France with 22-17 defeat of Fiji after sudden-death extra-time. The Australian team came in fifth.

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