Natania Ngawhau has been balancing her rugby and brass band commitments. Photo: Jonty Dine.

Natania’s big balancing act


After suffering a brutal spear tackle and being knocked unconscious, all Natania Ngawhau was worried about was her other “team”.

As concerned onlookers went to call an ambulance, Natania waved them off. She told her would be helpers that she didn’t need any assistance and she certainly wasn’t going to hospital – she had to get to orchestra practice after the game.

It was not the first time her toughness was exemplified on the footy field.

During her very first game for Nayland College, Natania tore her ACL but opted to carry on playing.

“I thought someone had just kicked me in the knee really hard and I was being a wuss.”

With the ability to absorb such punishing hits, it may surprise many to learn that Natania can also hit the delicate notes of orchestral masterpieces such as Souvenir Du Poitou on her trombone.

In stark contrast to her uncompromising rugby persona, Natania is also a member of the Nelson City and New Zealand Secondary Schools Brass Bands.

The 17-year-old is no stranger to breaking barriers, however, as one of only three girls in the New Zealand band, which until recently exclusively accepted males.

Her music teacher is understandably horrified about Natania’s chosen sport.

“She’s worried I’ll get my teeth knocked out and won’t be able to play my instrument.”

But Natania’s teacher will need to make peace with Natania’s extra, extra-curricular activities as she shows no signs of slowing down.

She was recently named in the U18 Mako women’s team, was invited to the national secondary school’s mountain biking competition, attended the South Island athletics champs in shotput and long jump and is also preparing of an overseas rugby sevens trip.

Natania admits it can sometimes be overwhelming to balance so many commitments, but the successes make it all worthwhile.

However, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing for the diminutive halfback in her one and a half seasons playing rugby. Concussion ruled her out of the Mako’s games against Buller and Wellington.

Though she was ecstatic the team beat Wellington for the first time, she was devastated to be on the sideline.

The symptoms have also affected her schooling as she struggled to concentrate during the recent mock exams.

However, just as she has done in the past, Natania will not be deterred by adversity and plans to come back stronger next season.

Though she has a number of potential paths she can take, she says music is her true passion and is already employed as a tutor at the Nelson Centre for Musical Arts.

Natania isn’t one to rest on her laurels, constantly looking for the next challenge.

During the recent school holidays, her neighbor jokingly asked if there was anything she can’t do.

After replying “I can’t ride a unicycle,” Natania got to thinking and decided there was no reason why she couldn’t.

After buying herself one, she went about teaching herself to ride it and, just six days later, she was a seasoned pro.

Unsurprisingly, Natania has already set her sights on a post school career.

In a bid to mesh her musical talent and unrelenting toughness, she hopes to join the New Zealand Army Band with the ultimate goal of becoming a police officer.