Player to coach . . . Lilian Tepper (17) has enjoyed her first year coaching the St Taki under›15 girls rugby team. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

When Lilian Tepper started playing rugby, she was the only girl in her team.

Now the Waitaki Girls’ High School year 13 pupil is proud to be coaching the St Taki under-15 team, a female team made up of pupils from Waitaki Girls’ and St Kevin’s College.

‘‘It’s awesome. I love it,’’ the 17-year-old said.

At the start of the season, the team did not have a coach. Lilian, who previously played for St Taki, put her hand up to help out, alongside Waitaki Girls’ teacher Amy Hunter.

‘‘We both kind of took a stab at it.’’

It has been a learning curve for Lilian, taking the St Taki team for trainings once a week and watching them compete in the South Canterbury under-15 girls grade, in which it sits in fourth place.

Coaching 24 players had been a ‘‘big change’’ from playing herself, but one she enjoyed.

‘‘I am so thankful to the girls for putting up with me learning.

‘‘I’ve enjoyed the girls probably the most because they all individually are different obviously and I’m sure they all have their different reasons for playing, but watching them on the field going, ‘You know it, you’ve done it’ [is great],’’ she said.

Lilian started playing rugby when she was at Oamaru Intermediate School. After going through a ‘‘really difficult time’’, family friend and Oamaru Intermediate teacher Phil Martin saw her potential, and encouraged her to play the sport.

She joined Athletic Marist playing in the boys’ year 8 team. At the time, there was only one other girl in the competition.

After growing up with three brothers, Lilian was used to ‘‘rough and tumble’’ but nothing could have prepared her for being on the rugby field.

‘‘I’ve always been very confident in the sense that I’m just like, ‘Bring it on’. But it was so different . . .But I loved it.’’

Starting out as a lock for Athies, Lilian then played for St Taki in year 9 and 11, and a Waitaki Girls’ team in year 10.

Last season she played for the Waitaki Wahine as a winger, lock and flanker — and was being trained at hooker.

She unable to play for St Taki under-18 or the Waitaki Wahine this year due to conflicting schedules, but she hoped to play in Palmerston North next season, where she will be studying at Massey University. She was grateful to Miss Hunter and Waitaki Girls’ teacher Alisa Wynne for supporting her coaching this year.