OPOTIKI Primary School’s Shaeana Warren shows skill as she bends to scoop the ball before Brooklyn James, of James Street school can get to it. Photos Troy Baker D8458-082

FUTURE Ferns Day in Whakatane this year attracted 150 girls keen to take a look at girls’ rugby as a sport.

Organised jointly by Sport Bay of Plenty and the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union, the day was held at Rugby Park, with two current Black Ferns players, Renee Wickliffe and Leslie Elder, imparting their knowledge and skills.

Former Black Fern Exia Edwards, who was the day’s controller, said the goal was to get girls confident with rugby and give them an opportunity to learn some skills and play the game away from outside influences.

“It’s an environment where there are no boys around and they are all having a go,” she said. “I’m pretty passionate about rugby and I am keen to see these girls have a few skills in their bag of tricks and confidence of playing with the oval ball.”

Edwards said the Future Ferns Day had grown in number over the past couple of years. Last year, 105 girls turned up, and the year before, just 70.

“Rugby’s growing in popularity with the girls, no doubt to a degree because of the great success of the Black Ferns, and these days give the young ones a great opportunity.

“Already we are seeing some of these kids starting to come through in rep teams and through games at college, and they are competing in 10-a-side competitions in the Eastern Bay.

“We have a Monday night schoolgirls league and that’s well supported by the girls – there are so many opportunities for them.”

The girls learned ball handling skills on Thursday morning and then played games during the afternoon.

Students from Opotiki Primary, Woodlands, Kawerau Puataki, Matata, James Street, Apanui, Allandale, Ohope Beach, Waimana, Ruatoki and Tawera represented their schools.