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Love of the game . . . Lucy Taupo has returned to rugby this season after a 14 year hiatus from the sport. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

Lucy Taupo is a busy woman.

Already juggling being a mother-of-three, dairy farming, social basketball, netball and coaching, Taupo has returned to the rugby field this season, lacing up her boots as captain of the Waitaki Wahine.

It had been 14 years since the 32-year-old Waimate woman last played the sport, but when her husband, Jah, announced his retirement from Waimate rugby last season, she decided it was time to get back on the paddock.

‘‘I wanted to do something for me,’’ she said.

The No 8 was loving the family-orientated team culture and playing a supportive role for the up-and-coming players in the area.

Rugby had been through some massive changes since Taupo last played. It was faster, more skilful and the development in the women’s game was impressive, and she was relishing being back.

‘‘The body’s not as fast as it used to be, but the mind’s still there — [I] still see a lot going on in the game.’’

It had also been special for her children, Tussock (7), Reef (3) and Moss (1) getting to see her play.

‘‘[Tussock] doesn’t believe me that mum plays rugby. When he saw us out there for the first game . . .he was very impressed. That’s awesome.’’

The Wahine had three big losses this season but Taupo was proud of the effort and development of her team.

‘‘They’ve taken what we’ve been practising to the games; [the change from] what we started with back in February, to what we’ve got now ismassive. There’s been a huge improvement in the girls. It’s impressive.’’

Growing up in Waimate, Taupo always enjoyed sport, playing basketball and netball, and started playing rugby at Waimate High School.

She played for the school’s women’s rugby team from 2005 to 2007, and was selected for the Hanan Shield team in 2006, and captained the 2007 side.

After school, Taupo joined the Whitestone 45ers in 2008 but the following year the team was abandoned because of a lack of players, leaving Taupo with nowhere to play. Instead, she played netball for Athletic, in Oamaru, and social basketball and netball in Waimate.

North Otago women’s rugby was resurrected in 2015, but Taupo was pregnant with Tussock at the time, and the following year, she tore her anterior cruciate ligament while playing netball.

‘‘That kind of put me on the back burner for the next couple of years, and then the next two [children] arrived.’’

This year, everything started to line up and it felt like the right time to return this season, she said.

‘‘I’ve always wanted to go back — [it’s] the love of the game, really.’’

There were some talented players in North Otago and Waimate, who needed the chance to be recognised by Otago Spirit, like Cheyenne Cunningham.

The Wahine was important for the development of those players.

‘‘If we couldn’t get a team together up here then she’s not going to get that opportunity.

‘‘The school teams, they’re going really strong at the moment — there’s got to be a pathway for them.’’