Toka Natua, dual international in Rugby (New Zealand Black Ferns) and Rugby league (Cook Islands Moana) shares her personal experiences as part of Te ‘Epetoma o Te Reo Kūki ‘Āirani – Cook Islands language week.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I belong to a family of 5 – 2 sisters, mum and dad. Mum has 13 siblings, Dad has 11 and the majority lived in Tokoroa while I was growing up so family has always been my purpose, my passion and my WHY! We couldn’t afford much, but we had everything we needed. When mum and dad couldn’t afford what i needed, i had aunties and uncles, older cousins who could and would help me – and continue to help me get to trainings, feed me and support me on and off the field today. I also play for God, and i live to build his name JESUS and not mine!
What is your proudest achievement?
My proudest moment would be having played in both World Cups. Womens Rugby & Rugby League World Cups and doing well in both of them. Scoring a hat trick in the final and receiving the Man Of The Match, then being named in the Dream Team (Tournament Team). Rugby League World Cup – Representing Cook Islands with one of my best friends Te Kura, and beating England and also leading the Amu (Cook Island version of a Haka).
What is your biggest regret/lesson?
I guess it would have to be the position i’m in now, not being able to be selected for the August tests against Australia due to injury. I was a little careless with how i played, trained and recovered since the world cup and i believe this all contributed towards the injury i now have.
What advice would you give aspiring athletes?
NO FEAR NO RESERVE! Something i live by daily and try to pass on to everyone i’m involved with… So in the past i would go to trainings scared of what our trainer would have for us. Sometimes i’d get all worked up and get there and realise i was actually really good at it. So i trained myself not to over think things – not to assume and not to be scared. NO FEAR I believe if you always give your best effort – something good is always going to come in time. When you give your best – your best is gonna get better – and your best will turn into the BESTEST! Thats where NO RESERVE fits in. NO FEAR NO RESERVE!
How was your experience as a dual international?
I loved every moment of it. Especially being able to sing both National anthems and perform both Hakas. Moments like that are priceless and that has always been my favourite part about game day – the singing of the anthem.
How was the Rugby World Cup and final?
All I wanted to do was play my best. I wanted to put on a performance that my family would be so proud of. I wanted people to see what God can do, if you put him first in your life. I wanted all the sacrifices and struggle that i had been through prior to the World Cup to be worth it. I wanted to be the Best Womens rugby player in the world, that was my goal for 2017. After that final – i believe i had achieved all of it. I had no fear going into the game – I asked God to lead me and i did my part by playing my heart out and emptying the tank.
Is there anything you know now that you wished you knew starting out?
I wish i believed in myself more. I never thought i could do the stuff i did in both World Cups.
Who do you look up to and why?
I’ve always looked up to my cousin Johny Natua. He inspired me to not only get a degree but also to be the hardest worker in the room. He would drive me back and forth from Tokoroa to Hamilton to attend University. He would always call me to come and train with him – He was one of the many in my family who should have represented NZ in a sport, but didn’t quite get there and i wanted to make it for those in my family who didn’t.
What are your hobbies/interests?
I love to be with my family – we love each others company. I love to perform my traditional cultural dances and be a part of anything Cook Island. I love to sing, do DIY stuff and play any other sport!
How would your family and friends describe you?
I guess humble, hardworking and always hungry for food. hahaha I’m the one my aunty or uncles would pick up to help them do their wood or gardens and i don’t mind it at all cause i love to help.
Plans and aspirations for the future?
To start my own small business, to look after my parents, to continue to inspire the youth.
Where is your favourite place in the Cook Islands?
AITUTAKI – on a boat in the lagoon!!!
Do you speak the language?
Unfortunately i don’t – but praying one day that i will!
Photo credit: stuff.co.nz