Lini Kaufana might be young – just 18 – but she has packed a lot of experiences and rugby into her life. Hayden Meikle catches up with the North Otago halfback ahead of the women’s club semifinal this weekend.
Q Lini – is that short for something?
Yeah, it’s short for Lininia. My middle name and my first name come from three of my aunties. Their names are sort of all put together.
Q What’s your family background?
Tongan. My dad, Andrew, grew up in Oamaru. But I was actually born in America. We lived there for two years before we moved to Oamaru and Christchurch. I was born in Salt Lake City, Utah. Our family was over there. So I’ve got dual citizenship. I was actually just back there for two months at the beginning of this year. I’ve got lots of family over here, so it was nice to catch up with them. I’m the oldest of five siblings.
Q Does a return to the US permanently appeal?
Yeah, it does. My plan is to move back over there eventually.
Q When did you take up rugby?
I started playing when I was really little. I started with touch, then rugby, then I played league a little bit in Christchurch. We moved here and there was no league, so I’ve been playing rugby since then. I’m loving my rugby now.
Q What do you like about the sport?
I just like the environment. It’s a team sport, and you can just get out there and be physical.
Q You’re a halfback mainly?
I play halfback and first five. I actually prefer first five, but I’ve been playing halfback pretty much this whole season.
Q How do you enjoy being part of the North Otago team?
It’s good. They’re a good bunch, and everybody gets along. We’ve got a big age difference in the squad but everyone feels welcome and it’s a family environment. We’ve got heaps of high school girls in there. Hopefully they will be the next wave of good rugby players for North Otago.
Q And you had a chance to captain the side a couple of times?
Yeah, I was captain for a couple of games because Sarah Crabbe was out. It was good. It was a bit scary, but all the girls helped me out a lot.
Q Can you beat Pirates this weekend and make the final?
I reckon we can. We’ve been playing pretty well as a team lately, and everything is flowing a lot better. We’re a good chance.
Q Do you think the women’s club season is too short?
Yeah, it’s kind of weird. I feel like this has been our shortest season yet. We’re nearly finished, then we’ve got four weeks off, and then there’s some sort of wee competition they’re arranging. It would be good to get a longer season.
Q Do you have some rugby ambitions?
Yeah, I do. The plan is to go to the next level, hopefully, and even go overseas and see what is happening. I’d also quite like to end up coaching a high level of rugby. Women’s rugby is growing everywhere so I want to take my knowledge of New Zealand rugby somewhere.