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Theresa Setefano ready for Black Ferns Sevens return

Theresa Setefano ready for Black Ferns Sevens return

All BlacksFebruary 24, 2024

Theresa Setefano (nee Fitzpatrick) is expected to return to the Black Ferns Sevens in Vancouver this weekend.

The Commonwealth Games and Olympic sevens gold medalist last played in the 2023 Vancouver Sevens won by New Zealand 19-12 over Australia in the final. Stacey Waaka, Sarah Hirini and Jorja Miller scored tries.

In December, while on leave, Setefano traveled to Dubai for a club sevens tournament and was struck down with a nasty case of viral meningitis. Symptoms can include fever, severe headaches, stiff neck, sensitivity to bright light, nausea, vomiting, lack of appetite and lethargy. 

“I thought I was jetlagged. I’d flown to Dubal 18 hours in economy. I kept training with the girls and all my energy was gone. It’s the sickest I've ever felt, and usually, I have quite a strong pain tolerance,” Setefano said.

Bedridden for a week, Setefano was getting married the next in Rarotonga. New husband Ryan Setefano helped nurse Thressa back to health. This weekend she will play under the Setefano name for the first time. 

“I’ll try not to get too overwhelmed. It’s been a journey to get here to represent him and his family.

“I was away first because of a knee injury and then meningitis. It’s been a mental challenge getting back into the swing of things. I started going for walks which is unusual for me to be present and kind to myself.”

Ryan Setefano himself is an accomplished rugby player. He made over 150 premier appearances for Marist St Pats in Wellington and won a Jubilee Cup in 2012. Last year he coached the Marist St Pats premier women’s team to their first Tia Passi Memorial Cup title. He was an assistant coach for the Wellington Pride in the Farah Palmer Cup. 


The Black Ferns Sevens lost their 41-game winning streak in the first leg of the 2023-24 SVNS in Dubai and were bundled out before the Cup finals in Cape Town and Perth. Setefano is adamant that the reigning SVNS champions are on track.  

“I've been supporting the girls from home. It's been a challenging start to the series. We've grown a lot as a team. It's awesome because we've learned a lot, come back home, reassessed, and tried again. 

“We are a tight-knit group so though there are a few injuries and unexpected things that have happened we're not panicking. It comes with the job.

“It’s awesome to see other countries lift their game which makes the game more exciting.”

The return of Fitzpatrick, now the third oldest player in the Black Ferns Sevens, will excite. It's easy to forget her irrepressible form at the 2022 Rugby World Cup. She is naturally shy of the limelight. Overlooked for the first fixture against Australia she went on to play 388 out of a possible 400 minutes and was named Mastercard Player of the Match in the 57-0 drubbing of Scotland in pool play and the 55-3 quarter-final smashing of Wales. 

Arguably she was even better in the 25-24 victory over France in the semi-final. Paul Cully reported for Stuff:

“The hard-running No 12’s try in the second half gave the Black Ferns the lead for the first time. Just doesn’t make errors, and was brilliant in the tackle.”

In the final against England, the Black Ferns were down 29-31 with nine minutes remaining when Fitzpatrick made a debt grubber kick, just outside the 22, and in behind the English defense. Centre Stacey Fluhler seized the loose possession and offloaded in the grasp of two defenders to wing Ayesha Leti-Iiga for what proved to be the winning try. 

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