Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
It doesn’t take much to realise just how much of a superstar Sisilia Tuipulotu is.
At just the age of 20 she has quickly captured the attention of many rugby fans becoming an instant superstar for womens rugby in Wales.
Making her debut last year Tuipulotu was nominated for the Six Nations player of the year, and was awarded the player of the year award by the Welsh Rugby Writers Association. She was also part of the Wales team for the womens Rugby World Cup.
But as Tuipulotu recalls, her journey to being the rugby sensation she is now was almost non-existent.
“In our culture, women are seen to not play rugby as it’s more of a men’s sport so my parents were hesitant at first of me playing it” she said.
“It is growing in Tonga and there are more women heading to the sport, so I am hoping it will get to the stage where it can be accepted fully that women can also excel in rugby”
Tuipulotu first picked up the rugby ball four years ago at the age of 16 after originally playing netball for school. The physical nature of rugby was not a problem as she grew up with brothers and cousins who played rugby.
After impressing rugby scouts from the get go, Tuipulotu got a call in to the Women’s Premiership competition and was later then selected for the Wales women’s rugby team camp and everything else just fell into place.
For her success from both on and off the field, she credits it mostly to the support of her family in Wales, Tonga and across the world.
“It is probably the most important aspect of my career really. My mum and Dad back home in Wales they wake up like at 4am to watch me play”
“While being here in New Zealand last year for the womens Rugby World Cup and also not for the WXV1 tournament, I have two aunties who follow me everywhere. When we played in Wellington and then Dunedin, they came along and supported me through it all”.
Alongside the support and love from her family and loved ones, Tuipulotu is a proud Tongan who wears her culture proudly on her sleeve. Despite being away from the motherland and across the world in Wales, she will always remain strong in her cultural roots and values.
Born in Wales, she never spoke a word of English and was only fluent in Tongan. This was due to her parents speaking the Tongan language in their household every day.
“We have a strong island community here and also in England. Every other family has become family to me too and we are just a tight bunch. Everyone is unified and keeps close through our Pacific cultures”.
Looking forward to the future, Tuipulotu is hoping to travel back to Tonga to help spread awareness of rugby for women in the islands. Whilst growing the game, she hopes to also give back to rugby clubs in the islands through rugby gears and equipment to help improve the sport.
As of now, she is concentrating on tonight’s matchup against the Wallaroos of Australia and making sure she plays her role and executes well.
“I want to learn more, not only on myself but through my older and more experienced teammates”
“I am grateful for having an opportunity to train and be amongst some of the best athletes womens rugby has to offer and I know it will benefit my career not only now but also in the future”