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Embracing Authenticity: Shiray Kaka's Transformation in Sevens

Embracing Authenticity: Shiray Kaka's Transformation in Sevens

All BlacksMarch 1, 2024

"New Ray” is how a rejuvenated Shiray Kaka describes her new lease on life.

New Ray is not that different from “Old Ray” except for one thing - Kaka is unapologetically Shiray.

“I've always been this player who can goose step, dances on the field, and expresses myself,” Kaka said.

“In the past, I've suppressed that to try and validate myself with others. I'm not doing that anymore. Mentally I'm in a much sharper place now.”

Kaka debuted for the Black Ferns Sevens as a teenager in Dubai in 2013. In the decade since she's had her contract terminated twice and spent more than three years injured. Two ACL reconstructions were followed by shoulder surgery.

Still, she’s managed 29 tournaments and won a goal medal at the 2020 Toyko Olympics. In 2022-23 she finally strung together a full campaign. The Black Ferns won 36 consecutive matches capturing their seventh overall SVNS title.

“I'm like a cockroach; I keep coming back,” Kaka laughed.

“The biggest surgery has been the mental one. I doubted myself all the time. I lost the love of the game.

“Meditation is one thing that’s helped me. Meditation is not just people humming on top of a hill. It’s about getting your mind to a place that brings you joy. Meditating can be listening to your favourite music to get you pumped up in the morning or it can be sitting quietly and practicing for an hour. 


“Meditation in a rugby context helps me clear my mind for the role I have to play.  It's not about getting into a mindset of hurting someone, though I can be a psycho if my husband doesn’t arrange the dishwasher the right way.

“I even have a two-minute recording of things I really value. If I’m in a tiff the tape helps me regain my cool. Maybe they could play it on the loudspeaker.” 

Kaka was turned onto mediation in Tauranga by American researcher and author Joe Dispenza. 

The Black Ferns Sevens failed to win the first three tournaments of SVNS in Dubai, Cape Town and Perth. 

Last weekend in the Vancouver Cup triumph, Kaka topped the Impact table that measures the best performer in four crucial statistical metrics: tackles, linebreaks, offloads, and carries. 

“It’s easier to win after losing because you know what to fix. When your winning that’s not as obvious. We’ve had some people talking smack about us, I have the screenshots to prove it. We were nowhere near as bad as people said and nobody is harder on us than ourselves,” Kaha said.

“This year is really competitive. The Olympics are soon so everyone is bringing it. The new rules around cards and injuries have had a big impact too.” 

At the Los Angeles Sevens this weekend the Black Ferns Sevens are grouped with South Africa, Fiji, and Brazil.

Shiray is married to former All Blacks Sevens player Gillies Kaka. He finished his sevens career with 33 competition appearances, 169 games, 65 tries and 807 points. He was a winner of the World Sevens Series in 2013-14.

“When he’s doing the dishes I sometimes forget he was a Sevens legend. I’ll be watching Instagram and his highlights will pop up. He’d be a great coach. He sees things I don’t and explains them really well,” Shiray said.

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