New Zealand Womens 7s star Portia Woodman is targeting a Sao Paulo return for the Black Ferns
Injured Black Fern star Portia Woodman is targeting a return to the Sevens pitch next month.
The 2013 New Zealand Women's Sevens Player of the Year will miss the next two tournaments in the New Zealand Herald Summer of Sevens but aims to return for the IRB Women's Sevens World Series tournaments in Atlanta and Sao Paulo in February.
"My back is coming along really well and I am hoping to be back after my rehab although I need to earn my spot in the team as there is so much new talent out there," said Woodman, 22.
The former netballer was herself considered emerging talent a year ago, though with a stellar year on the world stage, including 12 tries at the Rugby World Cup in Moscow, the pacy Woodman is almost a certainty to return to the black jersey.
"I thought I would give Sevens a crack in 2013 but I never imagined I would be where I am now," she said. "If I was to think I was going to get to places like Russia and Dubai I would never have guessed it, it's been awesome so far."
Woodman scored in all six matches at Moscow, including two in the Cup Final where New Zealand beat Canada 29-12, and rates the experience among the highlights of her sporting career.
"Going into the RWC Sevens we tried to incorporate what we had learned in the training camp and defence was our focus as we knew that if we had a good defensive system we would win games.
"When I got the ball I just wanted to run like anything and get to the tryline, as I love that there is so much space and I can take on players one on one in Sevens."
Woodman's sensational sidestep, pace and nose for the line drew admiration from all quarters at the Luzhniki Stadium and she later made her test XVs debut for New Zealand against England, where she also crossed the chalk.
A year earlier, Woodman had been on a semi-professional contract with netball's Northern Mystics in Auckland and is clear on the reason for the switch.
"I made a few grades in netball and I loved that but I thought I would give Sevens a go and try to get to the Olympics," she said. "When you are little you look at the Olympics and dream of being there and now it is a real possibility.
"The Olympics is a big driver for all sorts of athletes from all over the world so we will see more girls like Kayla (McAlister) and Mo'onia (Gerrard) coming into the sport. I can't explain how much it means to me to have the chance to get to the Olympics, it's awesome!"
The athletic Woodman, who stands a mere 170cm and weighs in at 70kg, says she owes a lot to netball.
"Obviously you need to learn how to tackle and be tackled but the biggest thing to be successful in Sevens is learning how to love to train.
"The training regime and discipline in netball is the same and some of the skills such as footwork transfer over into Sevens. I'm trying to maintain my speed and power in the gym as I was already quite lean and muscular coming from netball."
And the Kaikohe girl says her family, including father Kawhena and uncle Fred, both All Blacks, and aunty Te Aroha Keenan, an international netballer, were very supportive.
"My aunty helped me train well at netball and she understands what you need to do to get where you want to be," said Woodman. "She loves watching me play though she would also like to see me back in netball soon!"
That's an unlikely prospect as the women's game grows ahead of, and particularly post, the Olympic Games.
"We are on a great NZRU package and it will build as we get closer to and after the Olympics but being full-time is in the distance for us," said Woodman.
And although she will sit out the Bay Engineers Supplies Provincial Sevens (Saturday at Mt Maunganui) and the Bayleys National Sevens a week later in Rotorua, Woodman will be taking a keen interest in her Auckland side.
"After watching them at the regionals - where they beat Waikato 26-10 - I am quite confident as they are looking drilled. However, last year we were feeling confident as well and it didn't work out at the Nationals (Auckland lost to eventual champions Manawatu)."
"Anything can happen in Sevens so we need to remind ourselves to keep on track, but we are looking forward to the Mount and raring to go."