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Former Black Ferns captain Les Elder donates Christmas presents to whānau in need

Former Bay of Plenty, Chiefs Manawa and Black Ferns captain Les Elder has started collecting donated items from the Tauranga community to gift to whānau for Christmas.

As a professional athlete she's received gifts over the years that she’d rather donate to families in need, considering the increase in living costs that is affecting families.

“We wanted to do something to help others and I’m finally sitting at home with a bit more time now and thought ‘let’s just do it’,” says Elder, of Ngāti Tuwharetoa and Ngāti Maniapoto.

Elder put a call out on her Instagram page story to ask if anyone would be willing to donate items they have lying around at home and don’t need.

“I’ve got a lot of mates in similar situations so I knew there’d be people out there willing to help,” she says.

So far she’s given away 61 gifts to tamariki in Tauranga with the help of her friends who work as school teachers in social services and are connected to whānau in need.

Les Elder gives back to whānau during the festive season.

Don't spend money

“We’ve had a range but a lot of rugby kits so brand new Adidas boots, runners, Black Ferns gear.”

Elder has also had support from the owner of a local barbershop who has donated free coupons for young boys to get their hair cut.

“I’ve been inundated with donations so, because it’s just me, I’ve had to slow things down a little bit bu,t if people are wanting to help, they are more than welcome to gift whatever they have around home," she says.

“I don’t want people to have to spend money. The cost of living at the moment just puts too much pressure on people so just find what’s around home that’s not being used.”

People can also support by helping to wrap the presents.

“If you want to come spend time with me wrapping the gifts and deliver out to tamariki then get in touch. I’m sure we can connect,” Elder says.

Last month Elder announced her retirement from rugby. She first debuted for the Black Ferns in 2015 and was part of the 2017 Rugby World Cup winning team. In 2019 she took over captaincy of the team and played a total of 22 Test matches across seven years.

22 years of success

In a social media post, Elder reflected on a 22-year journey on the field.

“I am extremely grateful for everything the game has given me and I move into life after rugby with so much excitement for what I can give to the game. My time on the field has come to an end, but what I do off the field is only just beginning. I can’t wait.”

New Zealand Rugby’s General Manager Professional Rugby and Performance Chris Lendrum says Elder’s contribution to the game has been immense.

“Les is a remarkable leader who has made an incredible contribution to the game both on and off the field. She has tasted success at every level, from provincial championships, the inaugural Super Rugby Aupiki title and a Rugby World Cup title in 2017,” he says.

“What stands above all that success is the mana and leadership she brought to women’s rugby at a crucial time in its development from the amateur to professional game.”

Elder says it hasn’t been an easy retirement this year, with a lot of illness and death in her whānau. So this Christmas she will go home to Taumarunui to reconnect with her whānau.