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Chasing Dreams

A Pune girl becomes the first foreigner to join a rugby training programme in New Zealand.

Written by Chinmay Brahme |
November 10, 2013 5:17:10 am

Ketaki Khare,a Pune-based 25-year-old,says that her first day at the training base of the Bay of Plenty Steamers,a professional rugby team with 20 New Zealand international players on its roster,was nothing less than a star-spangled dream. All Blacks,the current rugby world champions,also trains at the base,which is situated on the north-eastern tip of New Zealand’s north island.

As player after player,whom Khare had seen only on television screens in dark rooms (rugby matches in India are often telecast very late at night) earlier,filed out onto the field,Khare had to refrain herself from jumping with excitement. “These guys were so close,I had never been so excited to see a team doing a routine sprint session,” Khare says.

Khare,who is a member of the Indian women’s rugby team,is the first foreigner to be offered a place in the prestigious Bay of Plenty Rugby Union’s developmental rugby 7s program. At present,she is at Tauranga,the home base of the Steamers,on a scholarship and is pursuing a player as well as a coach developmental programme in the rugby hub of the world. Khare is currently looking for sponsorship to be able to

complete her full tenure in New Zealand. Khare was hand-picked by 2009 All Blacks World Cupper,Chad Tuoro,when she was working as a rugby development officer in Sri Lanka.

Now,as she interacts with the stars of the rugby world,Khare cannot help but think that barely a year ago,she was about to sever all ties with rugby. “Last year,I lost my father to a sudden heart attack. I had to make a choice between rugby and finding a stable job to support my family. I looked around for jobs in rugby and stumbled upon Sri Lanka,” she says.

Khare worked for a year in Sri Lanka,first as a referee and then as a coach for the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union,coaching school teams in Colombo. “Apart from playing and teaching rugby,I was earning a bit. Also,I was able to meet the who’s who of international rugby at the Carlton Super 7s and that’s where the New Zealand thing took off,” she says.

Khare’s mother handed her a little bit of rope then,to help her chase her rugby dream. “After my dad passed away,my mother took up a job. It was due to her

that I could go to Sri Lanka. Even today,she helps me out in whatever way she can,”

she says.

Khare started playing rugby at the age of 14. “I used to play football with boys in Pune. One day,I happened to see a rugby practice session,and the idea of ramming into people and throwing them on the ground instantly appealed to my sadistic nature,” says Khare with a laugh. A national medalist in judo,contact sports always appealed to her. After seeing her play rugby in a one-off session,Surhud Khare,the head coach at

the Rugby Football Sports,took her under his wing.

Since then,Khare’s rise in the sport has been steady. “I made it to the Indian team when I was 18 years old and ever since,I

have been playing on and off. I missed the 2010 Asian Games due to a ligament injury,but I represented the team at Borneo 7s in 2009,where we finished as runners-up,”

she says.

Surabhi Date,who led the Indian women’s rugby team at the Asian Games in Guangzhou,speaks glowingly about Khare. “Even though she has been a little unlucky with injuries,she is definitely one of the best rugby players in the country,” she says.

Khare,for now,does not want anything other than rugby in her life. “I have a seemingly improbable dream of playing professional rugby. But (even if that doesn’t happen) I want to continue to work for this sport. It’s been something that’s opened a lot of doors for me and it would be great if I could find myself a little place in it,” she says.

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