Black Ferns co-captain Ruahei Demant (Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, Te Whakatōhea, Ngāti Awa) has taken out the World Rugby 15s women’s player of the year.
The Rugby World Cup champion was cheered on by several teammates who were in attendance in Monaco. While on stage to receive the award, Demant says it was “unexpected”.
“For myself to be here tonight with so many of my teammates, we’ve never done this before so we’re having a lot of fun tonight and we’re looking forward to the rest of the night.”
With the Black Ferns coming to the world cup off the back of a defeating northern hemisphere tour last year with losses to France and England, Demant says she and her team have been able to “transform” how the Black Ferns approach the game to thanks to coach Wayne Smith.
“The courage that he instilled in us and the belief that he had in us to play footy as freely as possible and enjoy it.
“We [also] had a bunch of girls who put their heart, soul and body on the line for everyone regardless of whether or not they were playing. We got the job done but we also had a great time doing it.”
Dr Farah Palmer, former Black Fern, Rugby NZ deputy chair and NZ Māori Rugby Board Chair, was the recipient of the Vernon Pugh Award for distinguished service to the sport.
Demant was also named in the 15s women’s dream team of the year alongside teammates Ruby Tui, Theresa Fitzpatrick and Portia Woodman.
Other Black Ferns took home more awards, including Sylvia Brunt for women’s try of the year, Ruby Tui's second award for women’s 15s breakthrough player of the year and coach Wayne Smith taking the Coach of the Year.
The Black Ferns unable to make the awards in Monaco made their presence felt at Eden Park on Saturday night instead.
During popular band Six60's live performance of their song The Greatest, a rapturous crowd that echoed the sound levels of the previous weekend's stellar RWC win for the Ferns reverberated through the stadium once again when team members walked out together.
Stacey Fluhler, Natalie Delamere and Hazel Tubic, to name a few, took to the stage, rocked out with the crowd and showed off their RWC trophy to the masses, with the audience cheering in admiration much like the epic weekend before.