Saturday, 06 June 2020


“Living away from the big cities should not be seen as a barrier,” says Black Fern Eloise Blackwell

Two current members of the Black Ferns, the New Zealand national women’s rugby team, lock forward Eloise Blackwell and wing Renee Wickliffe, paid a visit to the Mercury Bay Area School on Wednesday last week to conduct a coaching clinic and to talk to students about life as semi-professional rugby players. Part of their travel kit was the Women’s Rugby World Cup which the Black Ferns won in Belfast, Ireland in 2017.

Eloise attended MBAS as a secondary school student back in the early 2000s. “It was fantastic to be given the opportunity to return to MBAS, which really did provide me with the opportunity to excel both in sport and at an academic level,” says Eloise. “My main message to the students on Wednesday was this, ‘If you have the desire to succeed and you have the talent to reach the top in what you are interested in, then living away from the big cities should not be seen as a barrier.’”

Eloise can talk from experience as her own pathway to success started on Great Barrier Island where she was born and raised. Her parents still call the island home. Her early education began on the island at Kaitoke Primary School.

Well-known Whitianga local and former school teacher, Ron Morgan knows Eloise’s background better than most. “My wife Rhonda and I lived on Great Barrier Island for three years and I taught Eloise at Kaitoke Primary School,” says Ron. “She impressed me as an exceptional athlete with many fine personal attributes. As there was no secondary school on the island, students had to either leave or undertake correspondence education once their primary school days were completed. As we had relocated to Whitianga by the time Eloise had finished her primary school education, we offered her board with us and the opportunity to attend MBAS. During her time at the school, she took part and excelled in a number of different sports, including netball, basketball and soccer as well as being involved with surf lifesaving. She was also part of a group from 11 students who were selected to go to the World Scholar Athlete Games in Rhode Island, USA”

Eloise was also offered a sports scholarship to attend Shawnigan Lake School on Vancouver Island, Canada. One year of girl’s rugby turned into two when she was offered a second year. Other sporting opportunities followed during her time in Canada, including a tour of Britain with the Shawnigan Lake girls' hockey team.

After finishing her secondary school studies, Eloise moved to Auckland to attend the University of Auckland where she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in physical education. She continued her rugby career playing for the Ponsonby Rugby Club in Auckland and gained her first national honours in 2011. She has been a regular member of the Black Ferns since.

Eloise is currently balancing life as an elite rugby player with being a physical education teacher at Epsom Girls Grammar School in Auckland.

“Eloise has always impressed with her willingness to work hard and to improve on her natural talents whether it be in the classroom or on the sports field,” says Ron. “She was always, and still is, a most-valued team player and excels in providing encouragement to others. She is a credit to her family and an example of somebody who has made full use of her natural talents. She is certainly an inspiration and it was very fitting that she could return to MBAS on Wednesday to share her skills and her journey with the students of the school.”


Caption - Black Ferns Eloise Blackwell and Renee Wickliffe (in the centre of the front row) with some Mercury Bay Area school students and the Women’s Rugby World Cup on Wednesday last week.


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