Niall Williams reveals inspiration

Black Ferns Sevens playmaker, Niall Williams, has revealed she might never have gotten into the code without the intervention of a touch rugby legend.

The 32-year-old was interviewed by Kirstie Stanway for Sky Sport NZ’s Isolation Nation programme this week, and said her sevens career is all down to Peter Walters.

She had been captain of the New Zealand touch team before a crucial conversation between them in 2014.

“He is the GOAT of all GOATS in touch, and not just in New Zealand, but worldwide everyone knows him,” Williams told Stanway. 

“One year, he pulled me aside and said to me that rugby sevens is going to be in the next Olympics. I was like ok, cool story, it was really left field, and then he said, I want you to play and you are going to be at the next Olympics.”

“I just thought this guy is crazy and I knew he was getting older, but I thought he’s lost the plot.”

Williams has played 138 games for the Black Ferns Sevens since her debut in 2015, and indeed did go to the 2016 Rio Olympics where the team won silver.

She was also in champion squads for the 2018 Commonwealth Games and World Cup, but her career got off to an auspicious start thanks to Walters’ prompting.

When he pulled Williams aside to push her to go for Rio, she had a six-week old baby and had just finished a four-day touch tournament.

Walters said to her she had to be at Auckland Sevens training at 5:45am the next day.

“I remember he said to me, this is the first step you take to a whole new life and you need to be there,” Williams said. 

“I struggled to lift the 20kg bar, I couldn’t do a chin up, but one thing that I knew I always had, was mental toughness and once I put my mind to it, I made sure I gave everything I could to get it done.”

She’s the younger sister of rugby icon Sonny Bill Williams, and grew up in awe of what he did for a living, never imagining she could follow the same path as a professional athlete.

“I’m just so grateful that I got that first opportunity from Pete to play Sevens, it’s just opened up so many doors,” Williams said.

She was named in the Black Fern Sevens extended squad for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games in February, before the Games were postponed to July 2021 due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

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