Being of Samoan decent, rugby is not an option, it is a way of life. In my family we make sure to bring our cleats to every family gathering because there is bound to be a big game of touch sometime throughout the day. From a very young, age we grew up playing with a rugby ball, taking it everywhere we went. I was privileged to be surrounded with so many great coaches (and by coaches I mean all of my uncles and my dad). They would always be introducing new skills and games for me and my cousins to play. If I ever needed a thorough game analysis, they were the ones to go to. It was the strong cultural history with the sport, and playing touch with my family, that sparked my passion for the game.
It wasn’t until grade 9 that I played on a team for the first time. I played for the Abbotsford rugby club in the u18 division. I remember in my very first game, this girl was running at me full tilt and it was my tackle to make. As she was running, I felt as if everything was in slow motion. In that time, I was thinking, “should I tackle her? It looks like this is going to hurt. Maybe someone else will hit her before she gets to me!”. I ended up just stepping to the side and letting her run past because I was too afraid to hit her. I will never forget this moment because I let fear overrun me. I made a promise to myself to never let the fear of the unknown stop me from playing the game. I continued to play club rugby for the next 4 years and in the meantime, played for my high school, Abby Senior, and team BC. All the while learning lots and discovering a family within the rugby community.
October 13, 2014 was the day that changed my life and my outlook on rugby forever. For most, it was just another thanksgiving, but for me it was the day that I lost one of my good friends and teammates. Chantal Maclean, the girl with the biggest heart and the unforgettable conversions. Her dream was to one day wear that maple leaf on her chest and to sing the national anthem at the top of her lungs. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that she would have achieved her dream and more. This was a dark and hard time for a lot of people, including myself. It took a lot to step onto the field for the first time since losing her, not seeing her beside me. It was from that day forward that I had a completely different outlook on rugby. It was no longer just a game, it was an escape. A way that I could truly express myself and continue to carry on her legacy. Now every time that I step onto the field I play for her. Chantal continues to live on through rugby, and to inspire many. My biggest take away from this whole incident is that we are never guaranteed tomorrow. You never know when it’s going to be the last time you put on that jersey.
I pushed myself to continue to pursue rugby at its highest level. In September of 2015 I was fortunate enough to wear the Canadian jersey for the very first time on my tour to Samoa for the Youth Commonwealth Games. It was such a surreal experience; being able to play the sport I love in my home country in front of all of my family. I was hooked, and I knew that playing for Canada on the senior women’s team was what I wanted. I pushed myself on and off the field to ensure that my dream of being a Canadian rugby player became a reality, and it is through this perseverance that I have found my greatest success. Since January of this year, I have been fortunate enough to train with the Women’s National 7’s program. It has been a dream come true to play at such a high level and I hope to continue to pursue my dreams within this program.
My biggest words of advice are to take nothing for granted. Don’t let loss stop you from chasing after your dreams, but instead, use it to fuel your fire. We are all going to come across rough patches in our lives but it is how we overcome these circumstances that shape and determine the person that we will be. Every opportunity you have to step on the pitch is a chance to do something spectacular!
Photos by Krystal Calver of Calver Photography
Nakisa is wearing:
RaceHER Tank Top designed for Acadia University
FastHER Rugby Shorts
PowHER Jersey designed for Edward Milne Secondary School in Sooke BC