There are allrounders, and then there is Grace Lui.
The 16-year-old Year 12 Kelston Girls’ College athlete is the epitome of the busy school sports girl. In summer she is full-on with athletics – she is a natural thrower of the discus, shot put and javelin – and waka ama, where she is a key member of the champion Kelston under-19 crew which won the Sport Waitakere sports team of the year.
In winter, Lui’s sport diet consists of netball and rugby, but she is often pitching in to help out if the school is short of numbers for any team. It means playing or training six days a week, but she gets it all done, even if she leans on her Mum from time to time.
“My mum is a real inspiration for me. She is the go-to person with trainings. The only time I have off is Sundays with church. Even if I can’t fit all the trainings in, I’ll have mornings if I have to,” she says.
Her natural athleticism and skill were honed in west Auckland backyard games with her seven brothers, six of whom are older.
Her busy sports schedule has even helped her schoolwork.
“When I don’t do sports, I slacken off at school. I think it’s just part of the whole mindset,” Lui says.
And it won’t get any less busy in 2017, her senior year, though she may look at dropping one sport to be able to do justice to them all.
She is a versatile throws athlete, originally out of the Waitakere club, and won a silver medal in the discus at last weekend’s national secondary schools athletics champs at Trusts Stadium. Lui actually threw a personal best of 42.91m, but it wasn’t quite enough for the gold. Younger brother Joshua placed 10th in the junior boys’ discus and 12th in the shot put.
Things really crank up for Lui in winter. She has played netball, mainly at GA or GD, for many years, and is with the Collegiate and New Jaks premiers, but has appeared for the Waitakere Under 17s and trialled for the Mystics development squad.
She is a rugby rookie, but was invited to train with the Auckland women’s sevens squad after her athletic potential was spotted at a meet. She was called into the Kelston First XV this year and joined the new rugby academy, firstly as a powerful wing, then midfielder, then lock! It led to Auckland Central/West Under 18 selection.
“When they did all the drills, I didn’t know anything … I just thought ‘don’t drop the ball.’
She found she could carry well and enjoyed the physical contact of the game. Next year she hopes the academy work will pay off and Kelston can be more competitive on the field, while her skill and rugby nous will naturally increase.
As for her favourite sport? Not an easy one, as she admits.
“Maybe netball. I’d like to keep that up. With rugby, maybe I should get down with the plays, then I can think about it!”
By Campbell Burnes
Photo / Doug Sherring