Holly Wratt-Groeneweg Making a Name for Herself

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The openside flanker has been so impressive in her rookie season she’s forced incumbent Black Ferns seven Lucy Jenkins to the blindside of the Canterbury scrum.  

Wratt-Groeneweg has scored five tries in 2023, including a hat-trick in a dozen minutes in the 59-29 victory over Hawke's Bay in a Premiership semi-final on Sunday. 

"I was gobsmacked to score those tries. All credit goes to my teammates. I didn't actually do much. I was in the right place at the right time. It was awesome," Wratt-Groeneweg enthused.

Commentators' attempts to pronounce her surname have been less inspiring.

"Wratt is Mum's name and Growneweg is Dad. He's from the Netherlands but goes by the English translation Greenway," Wratt-Groeneweg explained. 

"It's been pretty entertaining listening, sometimes I think they're talking about a different player. One commentator called me, 'Holln-berg.' I thought he said Molenbreg which is the Black Ferns bread sponsor.

"The commentators are doing their best. Rugby is a fast game and it's not easy to string so many words together quickly. We really appreciate the coverage the game gets."

Wratt-Groeneweg grew up in Papanui. Leanne and Ray run their own plumbing business, Woodbury. Holly followed her older brother Josh into rugby after playing football. She proved so good she was given a dispensation to play with the boys for an extra year. 

"When I was eight my best friend literally begged me to keep playing rugby. She said, 'If you don't play anymore, I won't be your friend,' so I dumped my soccer uniform in my parents' room and said, 'That's it,'" Wratt-Groeneweg laughed. 

Rugby wasn't popular at Papanui High School so Wratt-Groeneweg transferred to Christchurch Girls' High School (CGHS) in Year 11.

Under the guidance of High School Old Boys Rugby Development Officer Jamie Livingstone CGHS has won all nine Canterbury Premierships and only lost once locally in eight years. In 2019 they were runners-up at the National Top Four and won the Condor Sevens. 

"Christchurch Girls' was awesome. The coaching, the resources, the girls, everything was another level. It was at Girls' High I decided I could be a serious rugby player."

Her ambitions were temporarily halted in 2022 while playing for University of Canterbury Viperettes in the Women’s Premier final against Christchurch, Wratt-Groeneweg went down with a torn MCL. Refusing to believe anything was wrong, she told the physio she was fine and attempted to run back to her team. Not getting far, she was assisted off the field and watched the remainder of the loss in tears.

Viperettes prized the championship from Christchurch in June and Wratt-Groeneweg was selected for Canterbury. She made her FPC debut in the first round 58-29 win over Wellington in Christchurch. 

“It was surreal to debut but also a lot of pressure. Our Black Ferns were away so we wanted to prove we could be a good team without them,” Wratt-Groeneweg said.

“The Canterbury environment is so supportive. It doesn’t matter who you are. The girls are absolutely hissing for the final. I believe our composure will be the difference. We can take whatever is thrown at us.”

Auckland are the final opposition. The Strom haven’t won the FPC since 2015 but defeated Waikato, a team that had Canterbury’s measure, twice. Canterbury edged Auckland 27-24 in their last meeting at Eden Park on August 26. 

“Auckland is the kind of team that can pull a rabbit out of a hat. They’ve got some world-class players so we have to be on guard the whole time and trust our systems and each other,” Wratt-Groeneweg observed. 

Wratt-Groeneweg is studying Sports Management remotely through Massey University and works part-time as a barista.

PREMIERSHIP FINAL: Canterbury v Auckland, Saturday 9 September, 2.05pm, Christchurch Rugby Park. Live on Sky Sport.