As Michelle Curry stood arm in arm with her Samoan teammates with the country’s national anthem playing throughout the stadium, tears streamed down her cheeks.
It was an incredibly emotional moment for Michelle as she thought about her family before making her international rugby debut for Manusina.
“I was just really proud that I had made it this far and with my family there.”
With her parents sitting in the stands watching on, Michelle realised her dream of representing her country.
“They flew up with my partner which was awesome, and I’ve got heaps of family in Auckland who all came and watched.”
Michelle grew up in the village of Vaoala with her ten siblings.
After moving to New Zealand as a 14-year-old, Michelle eventually started playing the game during her last year at Nelson College for Girls.
“I was a late bloomer.”
Spurred on by her rugby mad brothers, Michelle made an immediate impact.
“All my brothers play, my oldest (Mike) used to be in the Mako and now plays in Japan.”
After four seasons with the Mako women, Michelle got herself on the Samoan rugby radar.
The national coaches first told Michelle they were tracking her progress with the Mako during the Farah Palmer Cup and it has been a rapid rise for the 24-year-old winger ever since.
It was a credit to her talent that she was able to stand out in a side with a -334 points differential.
“It was a really tough season.”
She vividly recalls the phone conversation informing her of her selection.
“They said ‘you’ve made it’, I was really, really stoked. It has been a long-term goal and I never thought it would be this year.”
The fearless Michelle had no qualms about coming up against the notoriously big and powerful Tongans.
“They were massive, at Tasman I am one of the average sized players, but up there I was one of the tiniest.”
However, she used her speed and agility to avoid the much larger opposition.
This was until the 55th minute when she was hit high.
Because her head bounced off the turf, she was forced from the field due to medical protocol.
“I was a bit gutted but I think the whole experience made up for it. I got 55 minutes in my starting position and one of my coaches pulled me aside and said, ‘look at
the score and know you contributed to that.’”
Michelle says the stadium was packed with incredibly vocal Pacifica supporters.
“Every hit, every metre gained everyone was cheering. You had to scream on the field because all you could hear were the fans.”
Following the six-try, 40-0 victory, Manusina now advance to a World Cup qualification tournament.
Originally planned for Europe, due to Covid-19 there is a push to host it in New Zealand.
“It’s going to be quite tight, but hopefully we make it all the way.”