Hill into fashion but hard as nails on pitch

Keely Hill does not meet the usual description of a hard-running second five.

For a start, the Otago Spirit player has impossibly long lashes. Then there are those carefully manicured nails and the beauty therapy course she has started this year.

It is hard to reconcile the image her dabbing on pink nail polish with the sight of her crashing through tackles.

Earlier this year, she broke her wrist while palming off an opponent.

The 19-year-old has a stiletto in the fashion scene and her sprigs in the mud.

It is quite a contrast, but it suits the smiley teenager.

“I’ve broken a nail or two unfortunately,” she laughed when asked about the difference between her two worlds.

“They are kind of like opposites.”

Her brother is to blame. Her father as well.

Dad, or Alan Hill to us, spent many years on the wing for Otago Country, while her brother, Josh Hill, plays lock for Otago and for the Melbourne Rebels. They sparked her love of rugby.

“Dad has been a big part of my rugby career so far. And Josh, well, I remember when he was starting here at university he came back one week — I had just started playing rugby — and he made me tackle him and he was like six foot [1.8m] and I was this wee little year 9.”

“He was like just come tackle me and I was like, ‘no’. Then I kind of went round his ankles and he just stood there.

“But, yeah, he’s been a big part of my journey as well.”

The Spirit made a terrific start to the Farah Palmer Cup. It dispatched the Hawke’s Bay Tui 44-22 in the opening round last weekend.

Hill did not get on the scoresheet, but she was part of a slick backline which created plenty of opportunities for the outside backs.

Classy winger Oceana Campbell nabbed three tries in an impressive display.

The Spirit will be hoping the 18-year-old can find that kind of form against the Northland Kauri at Forsyth Barr Stadium today.

The Kauri had a 29-10 win against Tasman in Whangarei in its season-opener.

Hill played on the wing for the Spirit last season, but sees herself as a midfielder. It is where she plays her club rugby and where she feels most at home.

She his working on her kicking game, but her role is to look for gaps, break the line and get the ball out wide to where the finishers are.

That part of the Spirit’s game went really well against Hawke’s Bay. But there were a few discipline lapses towards the end of the match and coach Scott Manson wants his side to come up quicker on defence “and smash them pretty much”.

That is the beauty student talking there. The one with the fake lashes.

“They are big girls compared to us, so we are expecting them to hit hard in the forwards and they have quite a big kicking game from what we saw against Tasman, so we are just going to look for those receiving kicks and just counterattack that hard.”

And by the way, watch out Josh.

“I think I’ve got a little bit more mongrel in me to get him down now. I’ve grown up a wee bit since year 9.”

Farah Palmer Cup

Forsyth Barr Stadium, 4.35pm

Otago: Sheree Hume, Atawhai Hotene, Cheyenne Cunningham, Keely Hill, Oceana Campbell, Maia Joseph, Georgia Cormick, Kristi Kerr, Leah Miles, Zoe Whatarau, Julia Gorinski (co-captain), Ella Gomez, Paige Church, Tegan Hollows (co-captain ), Isla Pringle. Reserves: Grace Carroll, Lucy Cahill, Rebekah Wairau, Bella Digby, Grace Hastie, Brigid Corson, Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali, Mia Cochrane.

Northland: Tara Turner, Lara Cooper, Alisha Proctor, Harmony Covacich-Baanders, Tyler Nankivell, Timara Leaf, Janie Tairua, Hikitia Wikaira, Leilani Erwin, Tui McGeorge, Charmaine Smith, Arohanui Allen, Kahurangi Shelford, Patricia Vaka, Krystal Murray. Reserves: Tiaho Mahanga, Clare Guest, Hinewai Pomare, Justice Karena, Tuira Stowers, Steffi Hooson, Sian Telfer, Kerri Johnson.

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