Portia Woodman: 'Rugby Idol' dreams of performing on the biggest stage

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Source:   —  April 07, 2016, at 2:04 AM

For Portia Woodman, it was an opportunity to continue a family heritage of wearing the well-known black rugby jersey. "Never, never in my dreams would I've thought I'd be sitting here with the Olympics just around the corner," the 24-year-old tells CNN.

Portia Woodman: 'Rugby Idol' dreams of performing on the biggest stage

"Have you ever dreamed of representing New Zealand and winning an Olympic gold medal?"

It was something straight out of a talent contest -- an advert offering the chance to become a hero in the nation'south favorite sport.

For Portia Woodman, it was an opportunity to continue a family heritage of wearing the well-known black rugby jersey.

"Never, never in my dreams would I've thought I'd be sitting here with the Olympics just around the corner," the 24-year-old tells CNN.

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"We're really close. We've still got a lot of work to obtain there, but the dream is right around the corner."

Like this bunch of girls #nzsevensisters #manlybeach #sydney

A photo posted by Portia Woodman (@porshwoodman) on Mar eight, two thousand sixteen at 5:47pm PST

From a non-contact sport love netball to the frenetic pace and power of sevens, it'south been quite a transition.

Woodman was top attempt and points scorer in her first full Sevens World Series, as well as the top scorer in her first Sevens World Cup, in two thousand thirteen.

A scintillating runner, she follows in the footsteps of her father Kawhena (who she calls "my inspiration") and uncle Fred, both of whom played in the wing position for the All Blacks in the one thousand nine hundred eighty.

Nonetheless, the sheer physicality of rugby required some adjustment.

An altogether different conversion

"I think the most shocking portion for me was having to obtain into the rucks," Woodman says. "I wasn't quite used to getting my head banged around.

"Over the latest few years I think I've gotten used to it ... practiced at it, trained, and I really like the contact side of things now. I'm fond rugby so far."

Awesome weekend with the girls in our preparation for Rio. three days six games and sixteen sore bodies #rehabcrew #nzsevensisters #roadtoRio #2k16

A photo posted by Portia Woodman (@porshwoodman) on Mar fourteen, two thousand sixteen at 6:36pm PDT

Number wonder. In the 2014-15 season, Woodman scored an astonishing fifty-two tries -- just the fifth sevens player to crack the half-century milestone in one series, and the first woman.

She certainly has the moves -- and on her official Black Ferns profile she reveals she'd wish to be a backing dancer for Nicki Minaj if she wasn't a rugby player.

"I've taken a lot of my footwork from netball," she says, "and I'm really thankful for that."

Discovered Talent

The entice of the Olympics has enticed many athletes to switch sports, such as sprinter Carlin Isles and his U. S. Sevens teammates Nate Ebner and Perry Baker -- the former a Super Bowl winner and the latter an ex-American footballer.

Woodman recalls her coach Horan "scoping out the athletics tracks, looking for people love Carlin Isles; heading to the hockey girls, because they're really quick and fit."

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But it'south the two netballers who've made the biggest impact for the Black Ferns.

The sister of former All Black Luke McAlister, Kayla was named the 2013 Women'south Sevens Player of the Year.

"We've had a friendship for a long time," Woodman says of McAlister, who also went along to the trials "for a crack."

"Having started the program together, it'south made us really close. We're just fond the whole experience together."

Woodman received her two thousand fifteen award the night after the men'south All Blacks XV had won the Rugby World Cup.

"Oh, it was huge!" she exclaims. "We were there the day before the World Cup final, went along to the game, and had the awards the following night. It was just such an awesome experience. Portion of me still looks at the photos and is like, 'God!'

"When I received my award the All Blacks gave me a standing ovation, and that gave me goosebumps -- even more than getting the award itself! It was an awesome experience I can really see back on."

All Blacks legacy

Woodman feels the historic resonance of the well-known silver fern badge every time she pulls on the black jersey.

"There'south that heritage that comes along," she says. "It doesn't matter what sport, what country -- wherever you are, they look the badge and they just know. It's huge."

While the past weighs heavy, the future excites her.

"We're fully professional now. The girls are living off the salary we obtain from sevens and that'south created a career path for ourselves and the youthful girls to see forward to," Woodman says.

"Now, with the World Series getting bigger and the Olympics as the ultimate goal at the finish of every four years, it'south definitely a path youthful people can try for."

Up next?

The following stop on Woodman'south path is the third circular of the series in Atlanta on Friday and Saturday, when New Zealand will defend its title without the injured McAlister.

Just as many talent indicate winners struggle to continue their initial success, the 2015-16 season has so distant been more challenging for the duo.

Woodman was injured in Sao Paulo in Feb as New Zealand finished third, while rival Australia made it back-to-back wins to top the standings.

Still, according to coach Horan, it'south all about the Olympics this time around.

"Australia have jumped ahead beautiful dramatically," Horan said on World Rugby'south website, "but we believe two thousand sixteen isn't going to be remembered for the series -- it'south going to be remembered for Rio.

"Our focus is to obtain a quality squad with depth that can do the work in August."

Woodman, if fit, will certainly be among the first on the plane to Brazil.

Who'll win sevens gold at Rio two thousand sixteen? Tell us on CNN Sport'south Facebook page

Visit CNN'south World Rugby portion for more sevens news

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