Black Fern Chelsea Bremner takes year of unpaid leave from teaching for Rugby World Cup dream

Pacific Four Series: Black Ferns vs. Canada. Where: Trusts Arena, Auckland. When: Sunday, June 12, 2:45 p.m. Live coverage: Spark Sport, live updates on Stuff. Referee: Amber McLachlan (Australia).

Black Ferns lock Chelsea Bremner is taking a year of unpaid leave from her regular teaching job to try and crack the Rugby World Cup squad.

The 27-year-old from Christchurch made history in her long-awaited test debut on Monday’s 23-10 win over Australia at the soaking Tauranga Domain, starting with sister Alana, who was at blindside flanker.

Chelsea Bremner made her test debut against Australia on Monday.

Andy Jackson/Getty Images

Chelsea Bremner made her test debut against Australia on Monday.

It was a memorable day for the Bremner family, who flew up from Christchurch and had to huddle under umbrellas to watch Alana and Chelsea in torrential rain, as the Canterbury forwards became the fifth pair of sisters to play a test for the Black Ferns.

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“It was really enjoyable and such a special moment,” Bremner said.

“There was that huge downpour just before half-time. We went into the sheds and everyone was shivering by the time we ran back out.

Alana and Chelsea Bremner, who played for Matatū in March, became the fifth pair of sisters to play for the Black Ferns.

Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

Alana and Chelsea Bremner, who played for Matatū in March, became the fifth pair of sisters to play for the Black Ferns.

“Out on the field, I love it when it’s wet weather rugby. It’s always more fun.”

Bremner, who was among the seven test debutants in the Pacific Four Series opener against the Wallaroos, waited more than four years to play a test after her first Black Ferns training camp in 2018.

Until signing a professional contract this year ahead of the first women’s World Cup to be held in New Zealand, she was balancing rugby with her full-time teaching role.

“It was a really tricky challenge, especially last year when our contract went part-time,” she said.

“I definitely could not have been a full-time teacher without support from my school.”

That means the intermediate teacher can focus fully on her time with the Black Ferns while on a year of unpaid leave from Christchurch’s Hornby High School.

From left to right, Chelsea Bremner, Kendra Cocksedge and Ruahei Demant singing anthem before the Tauranga test.

Andy Jackson/Getty Images

From left to right, Chelsea Bremner, Kendra Cocksedge and Ruahei Demant singing anthem before the Tauranga test.

Bremner said the school has been “so supportive and accommodating” throughout her career that only started when younger sister Alana asked if she fancied a game for the Lincoln University club because they were short of players.

“I was really reluctant, but I went along to one training and really loved it. That was it,” Bremner said.

After growing up with netball, she was 20 when she played rugby for the first time in 2015.

“It took me a while because I’d never really watched rugby. It took me quite a while to learn the rules,” she said.

Bremner was an accomplished goal shooter in netball, making junior representative teams for Otago and New Zealand, but his rugby career went on an upward curve after his Farah Palmer Cup debut for Canterbury in 2016.

She won four successive provincial titles with the red and blacks from 2017 to 2020 and made her first appearances for the Black Ferns in two matches against the New Zealand Barbarians at the end of 2020, as a committed, strong, hard-working forward. She played for Matatū in the inaugural Super Rugby Aupiki in March.

Chelsea Bremner, pictured playing for Canterbury in 2019, won four Farah Palmer Cup titles from 2017 to 2020.

Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

Chelsea Bremner, pictured playing for Canterbury in 2019, won four Farah Palmer Cup titles from 2017 to 2020.

In 2019, she was the Fiao’o Fa’amausili medal winner (Farah Palmer Cup player of the year) but her path to test rugby was delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I feel like I’ve been waiting patiently. It’s so special and such an honor that you do have to wait for your time to come,” she said.

At 1.81m, Bremner’s height is a valuable asset in a Black Ferns’ lineout that struggled desperately on last year’s northern tour when they lost heavily to England and France.

Bremner was not selected for the tour – sister Alana debuted and played three tests – but she is in a good place to make the World Cup squad because lock is not a position in which the Black Ferns have great depth.

They have just four specialist locks who are fully contracted – Bremner, Joanah Ngan-Woo, Maiakawanakaulani Roos and veteran Eloise Blackwell, who is absent for this month’s tests with Australia, Canada and the United States.

Bremner could still be rotated for Sunday’s test against Canada because new coach Wayne Smith wants to give chances to as many players as possible in an inexperienced squad.

Black Ferns sisters (tests)

Bremner: Alana (4, 2021-present) and Chelsea (1, 2022-present)

Demand: Kiripatu (2, 2015) and Ruahei (16, 2018-present)

See it: Justine (34, 2004-15) and Vania (4, 2003-07)

Itunu: Linda (38, 2003-15) and Aldora (26, 2015-21)

Richards: Anna (49, 1991-2010) and Fiona (14, 1993-99)

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