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On the ball . . . Morgan Henderson is gearing up for a big season after attending two Black Ferns training camps. PHOTO: GUS PATTERSON

Morgan Henderson has taken a massive step towards achieving her goal of representing New Zealand in rugby.

She was recently invited to take part in two Black Ferns training camps, mixing with the best women’s rugby players in the country.

It caps a meteoric rise for Henderson (21), who only started playing rugby six years ago.

“I started out rowing and didn’t start playing [rugby] until I was year 11,” she said.

“I enjoyed that, but I wanted something more aggressive. I love the contact in rugby.

“I am quite a shy person, and going in to a team environment helped me socially.”

Henderson took to rugby quickly, and has been named in the Otago Spirit for the past two years.

At the end of her first season with the Spirit, she was nominated for the Fiao’o Fa’amausili Medal, awarded to the best player in the Farah Palmer Cup.

Her development continued last year, when the North Otago Rugby Union facilitated an opportunity for her in the United Kingdom to work and play rugby.

“I was really nervous before I went, but they looked after me. Some of the team met me at the airport, and they accepted me really easily.”

She was still in the UK when she found out she had been selected for the first training camp in Palmerston North.

She was also asked to attend a second camp in Auckland last week.

The speed and skills on display were at a higher level than she had experienced before, but she did not feel out of place.

“I had played against quite a few of the girls before, so I knew I could handle it,” she said.

The camp had given her the confidence she could push on and achieve her goal of making the national side.

North Otago club liaison officer, and Henderson’s team-mate in the Waitaki and Otago teams, Georgina McCullough believed Henderson had the drive and talent to make it to the top.

“She is an aggressive ball-runner, hard tackler, and has the fitness to go with it,” McCullough said.

Getting invited to the camps, and being in the selection frame for the Black Ferns, showed it was possible for other players based in smaller centres such as North Otago to achieve national recognition, McCullough said.

“There is a pathway there, and that’s great from the union’s point of view.”