Thursday, December 23, 2010

Talented Tyla has a touch of class

Rugby's in her blood and she aims to play for her country. Lauren Mentjox explains.

Tyla Nathan-Wong's family has a motto that guides her on and off the sports field: "Deeds, not words."

It has paid off for the softly-spoken 15-year-old who will go to Australia to represent New Zealand in touch rugby - provided she can raise the money.

Tyla was selected for the national Under-17 and Under-19 touch squads and is scheduled to play in tournaments and test matches across the Tasman later this year and in January 2011.

She needs to raise $7000 to get there.

"It's a lot of money, but we will be able to do it," says Tyla. "Playing for your country is one of the highest honours you can get so this is pretty awesome."

Tyla has played rugby union, rugby league and touch football since she could first throw a ball.

Despite being half the size of most rugby players, she has played at a representative level since primary school, saying that it is technique that matters most.

Dozens of her trophies are on display at the family home in Blockhouse Bay for sporting achievements that are not limited to rugby.

Tyla also has a red belt in taekwon-do, has played top level soccer, and won school cross-country events.

Last year, the Lynfield College student was a member of 11 teams in nine sports, including the Auckland secondary schools rugby team and the Aotearoa Maori Invitational touch team.

Sofia Hameed, the Year 10 dean at Lynfield College, described her as one of the most "exceptionally gifted all round athletes" the school has had.

"[Tyla] is a talented, committed and visionary young woman," she says.

Humble about her achievements, Tyla takes it all in her stride.

This year, when she's not training with her dad or playing for Auckland's Marist Rugby Club's open women's team, she is working on gaining NCEA level one credits in seven subjects.

In the future, Tyla says she hopes to add other sporting achievements to her touch rugby success. Making the Black Ferns and the 2016 Olympic rugby sevens team are high priorities.

"I want to go as high as I can go," she says. "I am competitive, but it is a lot of fun and I like meeting lots of people."

While Tyla's parents and grandparents are "over the moon" at her selection in the New Zealand touch teams, sporting ability is something that runs in the family.

Her grandfather, David Wong, was the first Chinese New Zealander to play rugby league for Auckland. He is still involved with Ponsonby United and Bay-Roskill clubs, and helped organise the International Masters competition in Auckland last year.

Tyla's aunt, Sheree, and her mother, Deanne, represented New Zealand in touch rugby while her father, Russell, was an Auckland Maori representative.

For now, the whole family is getting behind Tyla's selection with a "full on" fundraising drive that includes everything from social gatherings to sausage sizzles to make sure she gets to Oz.

Email for information about sponsoring Tyla.
Lauren Mentjox | 27th April 2010

No comments: