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Southland pride . . . Southland women's captain Krishanee Tamou, of Gore, is over the moon to see the return of the first female rugby unuon team in Southland in about 15 years. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

Returning to the maroon and gold rugby jersey was a no-brainer for Krishanee Tamou. Tamou is the only original Southland women’s rugby player joining the side from the side that was disbanded about 15 years ago and is proud to be given the opportunity to represent the region she loves once again. She caught up with The Ensign sports reporter Kayla Hodge to reflect on her Southland rugby days and what the future holds.

For Krishanee Tamou, rugby has always been part of her identity.

The Southland women’s rugby captain grew up in a family of seven siblings, but she is the only girl.

“Rugby’s all I’ve ever known – it’s family.

“It’s a whanau-orientated thing for me,” Tamou said.

“I feel at home playing rugby.”

When she heard the rumour Rugby Southland was to put together its first women’s union team in 15 years, she was bursting with pride.

“I found out they were putting together the 15s again and the opportunity to rebuild it .. I knew I had to come back before I hung up my boots.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve had a team. I used to play in the old team with one of our coaches [Maima Afutu] now,” she said.

“I’m so proud to see it coming back in Southland and the pathways there are for young girls out there – it’s an exciting time.”

She described pulling on the maroon and gold jersey again as an “absolute honour”.

The centre and second five-eighth will lead the side this season for its six games as it works towards gaining a place in the national competition, the Farrah Palmer Cup.

Growing up in Gore, Tamou fell in love with the game from an early age.

She played age-group rugby for Albion Excelsior when she was a “wee tot” before she had to play with solely girls.

She debuted for the Gore High School First XV when she was in year 9 before receiving a netball scholarship to St Andrew’s College, in Christchurch.

During her time in Christchurch, Tamou played for Canterbury Women’s Development and the B side.

She has played for the Southland Maori team on and off for the past 11 years and joined the Southland women’s sevens side about five years ago.

She joined Woodlands Rugby Club about three years ago when the Rugby Southland women’s club competition was introduced.

Ten years ago, Tamou was named in the New Zealand Maori women’s rugby team.

“I’ve always played but not always consistently and there haven’t always been the pathways.

“It’s unreal the way it’s coming through now. .

“I feel truly blessed to see it turn around and coming through stronger,” she said.

For now, Tamou was adamant she would not be going anywhere until Southland returned to the national league.

“I’ll keep striving along with this group and people until we get back into that Farrah Palmer Cup.”