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‘One last ride’: Black Ferns Sevens great Tyla King to retire after Olympics

By Finn Morton
New Zealand's Tyla King controls the ball against Ireland during the HSBC SVNS Vancouver tournament in Vancouver, BC, Canada, on February 24, 2024. (Photo by Don MacKinnon / AFP) (Photo by DON MACKINNON/AFP via Getty Images)

Dual international Tyla King has announced the upcoming Paris Olympic Games will be the final chapter in the playmaker’s decorated rugby union career. King will leave behind an “unbelievable” legacy after a truly legendary career in the black jersey.

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King’s incredible career started in a fascinating fashion. Before becoming the world-renowned rugby sevens ace she is today, the New Zealander was once a 17-year-old high schooler debuting at international level at an Oceania event in Fiji.

That tournament back in 2012 was the start of something special, with King going on to play 60 tournaments in the iconic black jersey, which is the most of any New Zealand women’s player. The 30-year-old has broken other records in the process, too.

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Sarah Hirini on retiring legend Portia Woodman-Wickliffe

New Zealand Sevens star Sarah Hirini gets emotional when asked by Finn Morton about Portia Woodman-Wickliffe, who will retire after the Olympics.

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Sarah Hirini on retiring legend Portia Woodman-Wickliffe

New Zealand Sevens star Sarah Hirini gets emotional when asked by Finn Morton about Portia Woodman-Wickliffe, who will retire after the Olympics.

Earlier this year in Los Angeles, the Olympic gold medallist scored a try against Brazil which saw her enter the record books once again. With that effort, King became the all-time top point scorer on the women’s SVNS Series.

King is a two-time recipient of the New Zealand Sevens Player of the Year, and also a one-time World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year in 2023. The playmaker has also won two Rugby World Cup Sevens titles, two Olympic medals and a Commonwealth Games gold.

New Zealand will look to send off the retiring great on a high at the Games by hopefully helping King take home another gold medal. But regardless of the outcome in Paris, King will go down in history as one of the best.

“After 13 unbelievable years, it’s time for me to hang up my boots and retire from the sport that has been a massive part of my life,” King wrote on social media.

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“The Paris 2024 Olympics will be my final time representing New Zealand in rugby 7s and wearing the black jersey!!

“I was a young 17yr old kid, still in high school when I first made the team. Now I’m 30yrs old and about to play at my 3rd Olympic Games.

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“This team and the sport of rugby has allowed me to travel the world to countries I could only dream of, amazing teammates that I call sisters, opportunities I never thought possible and so much more!!

“One last ride in the black jersey… Paris 2024 here we come!!”

King is the second New Zealand rugby sevens great to announce their retirement with Portia Woodman-Wickliffe also set to wear the black jersey one last time at the Games. Woodman-Wickliffe is widely considered one of the ‘GOATS’ in women’s sevens.

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While the departing pair will leave behind a hole in the Black Ferns Sevens’ squad which will be tough to fill and replace, now is the time to enjoy the careers of these two athletes before they walk away from rugby union together.

“Tyla has long been an amazing ambassador for New Zealand Rugby around the globe,” New Zealand Rugby CEO Mark Robinson said in a statement.

“Her professionalism on and off the field and impressive point scoring prowess is second to none. We wish her and the entire team the best for what will be a special Olympics later this month.”

Black Ferns Sevens coach Cory Sweeney added: “A career that has been layered with success and breakthrough milestones highlights what a special player Tyla is but more importantly a role model and inspirational within our team and young girls in New Zealand.

“We will miss her, the world will miss her playing sevens but we thank her for the legacy she will leave and will celebrate her amazing career together one last time at the Paris Olympics.”

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