After two shoulder operations and lengthy stints on the rehab table, Amanda Rasch is fully fit this season and in top form for the Wellington Pride ahead of their Women’s NPC semi-final at home against the North Harbour Hibiscus this coming Saturday.
Rasch is the leading points scorer in the NPC this year, with 104 points, boosted considerably by two individual hauls in the past three weeks.
Against Tasman, the Pride’s second five-eighth and goal-kicker scored a Wellington record 23 points in the 88-3 win. On Saturday she went and smashed that record against Taranaki, scoring 43 points.
Wellington beat Taranaki 118-0. What do you say when you are 50 points up at halftime and how do you keep it going?
“We had quite a good win the week before against North Harbour, so a key message from [coach] Bondy was just not to get too complacent and to give it our throughout the whole game,” said Rasch.
“There were a couple of times during the Taranaki game where we did go away from our structure but we regrouped well and we were pleased that we played hard for the full 80 minutes.”
A theme of the Pride’s season to date has been strength off the bench, players such as Kiri Mei, Dora Laupola, Rosie Stirling, Marcelle Parkes and Dhys Faleafaga coming on and continuing the momentum.
The 118-0 win created a new record for the most points in a Women’s NPC match, breaking the 116-0 scoreline by Auckland against North Harbour in 1999.
Did the players on the field know that records were being created?
“We got told a lot to not worry about the scoreboard, we weren’t too focussed on points, just to keep playing the way we were.”
Rasch scored three tries (and was directly involved in at least two more), for a personal haul of 43 points. This was two short of the all-time NPC record set by Kelly Brazier for Kelly Brazier for Hawke’s Bay against Otago in 2012.
Remarkably, this wasn’t the most points she has scored in a single match. In 2014 she scored 46 points for her club team Oriental-Rongotai in a 131-0 win over Tawa. Rasch scored two tries and kicked 18 conversions out of a possible 19 that day.
Now in her fifth season playing 15s rugby, she has played 53 games for Ories, scoring 568 points. She has made 17 NPC starts for the Pride, scoring 131 points.
Against Taranaki, she nailed several side-line conversions.
“On Saturday I was a bit hot and cold," she downplayed, "I also shanked one right in front!”
Where did Rasch learn to kick?
“I have got a football background. I was a defender, so I used to take the goal kicks and the big free kicks from the back.”
In football she started at Miramar Rangers and then played for Karori and for the Wellington National Women’s League side for a couple of years, making the Football Ferns U20 squad.
And for her school Wellington East Girls’ College. “In my first year we took the [NZSS] Nationals out, then we lost a whole lot of our senior players so we had to re-build after that.”
Football’s loss was rugby’s gain when she gave the Go for Gold campaign a go in 2012. This was initiated by New Zealand Rugby at the time to unearth new sevens talent. It proved successful with five players that won Olympic sevens gold in Rio in 2016 tracing their selection back to the Go for Gold search four years earlier.
Rasch could have been one of them, but for a cruel blow on the eve of departure to the team’s first tournament in November 2012.
“I moved up to Auckland for university and Sean Horan was the New Zealand coach at the time and he got in touch with me and invited me to train with the squad in Auckland. It went well and I was then selected in the squad for the first women’s series tournament in Dubai.
“But unfortunately I dislocated my shoulder a couple of days before heading off.”
She had her first shoulder operation and subsequently moved back down to Wellington and joined Ories in 2014 and played a full club season at centre before being picked for the Wellington Pride for the first time.
She played another two full seasons for Ories in 2015 and 2016, mainly at centre, and also made another four Women’s NPC starts at second five-eighth in 2015 and another four at first five-eighth in 2016 for the Pride.
She won the club rugby title with Ories in 2017, before going under the knife again.
“I then had my second shoulder operation last year following the club season, after my other shoulder had come out a few times.”
Returning this season, she marked her first game back for Ories in round two with two tries against Petone, and was part of the Ories team that lost 15-20 to Norths in the inaugural Tia Passi Memorial Trophy final on finals day in August.
Rasch’s first cousins are well-known Wellington club rugby players Otto Rasch and Sam Rasch, the latter currently the Wellington men’s sevens coach. During the week she works for Sport Wellington as a Healthy Lifestyles Co-ordinator.
At the moment she is just enjoying being out there playing and taking it as it comes – continuing with this coming Saturday’s semi-final against North Harbour.
The Pride beat North Harbour 50-10 just a fortnight ago, but Rasch agrees they will be tougher this time around.
“Even though we did get a good win over them a couple of weeks ago we will go into he game with the same mindset of not getting too complacent. Finals footy is always a whole other ball game so we have to play hard and stick to our high standards.”
Wellington Pride v North Harbour. Women’s NPC Championship semi-final. Porirua Park 12pm Saturday.