The All Blacks Sevens and Black Ferns Sevens have welcomed young talent into their programmes with their 2024 season is in full swing.
Jayden Keelan (Manawatu) and Justine McGregor (Wellington) are the newest faces to move to the sevens base in Mt Maunganui.
21-year-old Keelan joins the sevens programme by way of Manawatu, where he starred in the local club rugby scene before joining Wairarapa Bush in the Heartland Championship. He played a season in Spain and was set to return to the Zaragoza club before being offered a full-time All Blacks Sevens contract.
Keelan, along with Codemeru Vai and Fehi Fineanganofo are the newest contracted players in the All Blacks Sevens. Vai and Fineanganofo were brought into the squad in 2023 as injury replacements and debuted in the Series-winning season. They both pick up full time contracts this year.
All Blacks Sevens coach Tomasi Cama scouted Keelan from the College Old Boys club and was impressed with his talent.
“When I saw him play it was obvious, he has the raw skill set, understanding of the game and great footwork. What is really important in a good sevens player is work ethic; you can’t shy away from the tough stuff and Jayden has the right attitude, so we think he’ll become a great player for us,” said Cama.
At just 17-years-old Justine McGregor is the latest school-girl sensation to graduate into the Black Ferns Sevens, in her first year out of St Marys College. With two seasons of Farah Palmer Cup under her belt, McGregor was also part of the Black Ferns XV squad and the New Zealand Under 18 Girls Sevens team in 2023.
Black Ferns Sevens Coach Cory Sweeney said McGregor has incredible promise.
“Justine has been a stand out performer in the secondary schools scene and has not taken a backward step since joining us. Its obvious that she has had some great support and coaching in her conditioning and rugby; we are proud of how she has adapted in our environment and she’s already putting her hand up for selection,” said Sweeney.
The Black Ferns Sevens also celebrate the return of Dhys Faleafaga to the squad. The powerful forward debuted in the black jersey in 2019 and returns to the team after the birth of her twin sons. Faleafaga, like McGregor, is also a former student of St Mary’s College.
While not new faces, two new names appear on the squad list, with the recently married Tyla King (nee Nathan Wong) and Theresa Setefano (nee Fitzpatrick) donning new surnames on their jerseys this season.
Both squads are based full time in Mt Maunganui. They have five more tournaments on the SVNS series before the Paris Olympics in July.
The All Blacks Sevens squad is:
Tepaea Cook Savage
Ngarohi McGarvey Black
Tone Ng Shiu
Xavier Tito Harris
The Black Ferns Sevens squad is:
Tyla King (nee Nathan-Wong)
Theresa Setefano (nee Fitzpatrick)
Terina Te Tamaki