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Young star . . . North Otago fullback Cheyenne Cunningham makes a break during a pre-season game in Dunedin. PHOTO: CASWELL IMAGES

She has a prominent North Otago sporting name but Cheyenne Cunninghamis deservedly grabbing her own share of the spotlight. The Waitaki Girls’ High School year 13 pupil hopes her rugby talent will take her around the world. She talks to Hayden Meikle

Q: How old are you, Cheyenne?
I’m 17.

Q: How long have you been playing rugby?
I’ve been playing pretty much my whole life. I didn’t play in year 9 but otherwise I have played right since I was a little kid. I played boys rugby as a girl, and I grew up with brothers as well which was handy for getting used to the game.

Q: What do you enjoy about the sport?
I don’t know. I’ve just always really liked rugby and how it’s played. It’s something I’ve become quite passionate about and I like to play as much as I can. I don’t play any other sport – just rugby.

Q: What’s it like being par of the North Otago senior women’s team?
This is my third year in the team. It’s really good. They pass on lots of knowledge to me and help me out. When I started, it was a bit different because everyone was bigger than me. But it wasn’t too intimidating.

Q: Do you enjoy getting to hang out with Canadians, Americans, Tongans and women of other nationalities?
Yeah, it’s heaps of fun. We’ve got a really good culture in the team. People come from all over the world and it’s really cool to get their perspective on what they think of rugby in New Zealand. They all seem to be enjoying it here, which is good. I really want to travel myself to play rugby, hopefully.

Q: Are you guys good enough to go all the way this year?
Yeah, I definitely think we’re up there. We’ve definitely got the skills and pace and a lot of talent. just need to spend more practice time together.

Q: Are you ambitious to play at a higher level? The Otago Spirit?
Definitely. If that opportunity came, I’d love to take it. I trialled for Otago last year but I just wanted to focus on school rugby.

Q: How is Waitaki Girls’ rugby looking?
Last year we did really well. We finished first equal with Ashburton. We’ve lost a few year 13s from last year but I think our team will grow and hopefully get up to the top again.

Q: Role model? Favourite player?
Hmmm. Portia Woodman. She’s someone I look up to. And Richie McCaw.

Q: Cunninghams have featured strongly in North Otago rugby, cricket and hockey circles. Where do you fit in?
My mum is Sally, and my dad is Ted. He’s always been really into his hockey. Logan and Joel are my brothers. We’ve always been a sporty family. They’ve supported me a lot.

Q: What’s the plan when you leave school?
I’m hoping to go over to England and play for the Olney club. That would be a great experience. I really enjoy working with animals so farming is another thing I’d like to look at. Hopefully, I can work on a farm or something and keep playing rugby too.