Indigenous | Public Interest Journalism

Ruby Tui reveals when Black Ferns coach Wayne Smith was reduced to tears

By Grace Tinetali-Fiavaai, Te Rito journalism cadet.

Sports star Ruby Tui has shared insights into the difference between coaching men and women in rugby.

Tui hs been a guest speaker at the Auckland Writers Festival.

The festival brings together writers from around the world and has just returned after a two-year Covid hiatus.

Tui spoke live on stage at the Aotea Centre's Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre about her best-selling book Straight Up, which tells the story of her journey to becoming an Olympic champion.

She hopes her book gives Māori and Pacific people the confidence to tell their stories through writing.

Tui described the huge influence her mother has had on her life, and the care she took when writing the book to not let her family down.

She shared with the audience how her former coach Wayne Smith came to accept how differently the Black Ferns prepared for games compared to the All Blacks, and how he was reduced to tears.

Feeling good to win

Smith was used to the All Blacks’ style of preparation - on their bus, the players were completely focused, with their headphones on, in dead silence.

That’s quite different from the Black Ferns’ bus, where Tui said everybody would be dancing.

Tui said Smith came to realise the All Blacks needed to win to feel good but he shared with her: “The ladies I coach need to feel good to win.”

By the time “Smitty left our bus, he was dancing and crying. We completely flipped him”.

Tui said rugby was a game for all people of different shapes and sizes and ended with some advice for the young people in the audience.

“I truly believe it takes a conscious effort, a daily effort to do the right thing, especially when nobody is watching. That is the one way I can make my family proud.

“Don’t be scared to fail. If you drop the ball and you pick it back up, you’ve gone beyond.”

Te Rito