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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Derrick

Ruby Tui: our Wahine Toa

Kia Ora,

I have just listened to perhaps my favourite podcast episode ever.

I smiled, I laughed, I cried and I had chills. Black Ferns powerhouse, interview queen and Wāhine Toa, Ruby Tui delivered it all on the Rugby Union Weekly podcast with Ugo Monye and Sara Orchard.

It’s hard to pinpoint one highlight. There wasn’t a minute that I wasn’t engrossed, scribbling notes and thinking how so many of her wise lessons apply to my life, my work, my team.

When you hear Ruby’s infectious energy, you’d be surprised to learn it’s built from childhood trauma and hardship. That the achievements she’s made are from making a very conscious choice that her life would be different to that of her mums.

Her passion in educating others on her heritage and the correct use of Te Reo Maori (honestly love hearing the English try to pronounce Maori but as Ruby says, it’s just about trying!) is so relevant right now as sport continues to the lead the way on inclusion, diversity and indigenous respect.

She is also SOOO funny. Her ability to throw in banter, jokes, tease Ugo. It was hilarious.

There is so much to unpack in the podcast that perhaps the best thing I can suggest is to simply listen to it. 40 minutes of your time could change so much of your life. Yes. It’s that huge.

But to give you a taster, some of my favourite bits were:

Educating on Maori language and culture We hear Ruby discuss:

  • Mana: presence, authority, prestige, immense strength and power of a leader. "Leading a Haka, standing up for what you believe in, being a good person when everyone's choosing not to be, standing up for people's rights, standing up for people you love." That's Mana.

  • Mahi: work

  • Wāhine / Wāhine Toa: more than just a woman. A Warrior woman. "Wahine are of feminine spirit but of a strength that’s not of this world". Sacred and beautiful

  • The Haka: “It’s more than just a challenge. It should just as much remind us that we have these moments that you are the other but you are the same. It’s why we play sport.”

On the Haka, interestingly, I was always taught that the Haka was for men only. Wāhine could lead the Pōwhiri (welcome cry) but never the Haka. I never thought anything of it but always wondered how the Black Ferns were able to do it. Ruby told the story of Debbie Chase being the first female to lead a Haka at the 1991 World Cup and it was that moment that defined and changed women’s involvement in the Haka. Sport had this impact on changing a centuries old tradition. For the better.

I also loved hearing all the Kiwi slang like mean, bro, hundy!

The significance of this World Cup

Ruby details how this World Cup feels like the turning point for women’s rugby: “Women’s rugby is about to blow up. Get on or get out the way cause it’s coming!”

Having played sevens all her life, making it to the 15s World Cup feels momentous for Ruby, telling the podcast about her excitement of being given her first World Cup jersey. She was the only player to put it on straight away. “I felt like a kid” .

Using childhood trauma to create a better path for yourself

Perhaps the most powerful portion of the podcast was when Ruby discussed how growing up with domestic violence shaped her personality, drive and future (you can read all about it in detail, in her new book ‘Straight Up’). Some of the powerful things Ruby said were*:

“If you don’t take each moment for how precious it really is, there’s a dark side waiting for you. 'I woke up today'. Sit with that. The darkness shows you the light.” “Everyone should write a book, even if just to give to your kids so they understand your state of mind. It’s a reflective tool” “[To ‘youngens’] The situation you’re in now and going through, it is and never will be your fault and never will be. You will grow up, you will get past this and you will have a choice. You can make a different choice, you can have a different life. This not your be all and end all. You have a choice.”

“Rock bottoms can teach us far more than the mountain peaks will never teach us.”

If you’re anything like me, you’re desperate to learn and hear more from Ruby so be sure to follow the Black Fern’s journey through the RWC2021, listen the podcast and buy Ruby’s incredible book.

Ngā mihi nui

Quotes have been edited for length

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