There was a sense of inevitability that Jazmin Hotham would one day play for New Zealand. The 21-year-old Black Ferns Sevens player grew up in a family household where representing your country is just what you do.
Her parents Nigel and Dianne were New Zealand and Samoa touch reps respectively, older brother Legin played for the Touch Blacks, while younger brother Noah made the New Zealand Under 18 boys’ touch team.
“It is funny that when I was younger my dream was always to be a professional touch player. I was obviously a bit naïve because I didn’t realise there wasn’t such a thing,” Hotham says, laughing. “I also did athletics as well so there was always this inclination that I wanted to be a sports person and have sport as my job. I thought maybe I could go to the Olympics as a sprinter but I was definitely not fast enough for that.”
Hotham was raised playing backyard footy at a higher skill level than most Kiwi families manage. She still loves playing in the family touch team when she gets the chance. “Growing up we have always had a family social touch team, so we have literally grown up playing alongside our parents, which has been really special.
“Dad would always take us up to the local school and we would have some competition amongst each other and always finish with some touch. Our parents never pressured us into playing sport. “The main teaching from them is no matter what part of your life it is, you always try to be the very best. But before anything to do with your sport or your career, you always just want to be a good person.”
Hotham’s sevens career began at Hamilton Girls’ High School. In 2017 she captained her school to a national Condors Sevens title, starred in the New Zealand Under 17 side that clinched the world schools title, and was awarded a Black Ferns development contract.
“I was really fortunate that Hamilton Girls’ High had some amazing athletes that had gone before me, like Tenika Willison, Shiray Kaka and Terina Te Tamaki. My Year 10 maths teacher was actually Shakira Baker, who I am now playing alongside.
“I have been surrounded by so many amazing role models and watching the 2016 Rio Olympics, including Shakira, was what really sparked me to play. There was no career path in touch but I thought I can transfer those skills to sevens and make it a career.” But just when you think you have everything mapped out, sport has a habit of throwing unexpected roadblocks in your way.
Hotham had to undergo reconstructive shoulder surgery two weeks ahead of captaining New Zealand at the 2018 Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires. It was devastating for the young athlete in her last year at Hamilton GHS, but as usual she got some straightforward advice from her father that made all the difference.
“I was gutted at the time but once again my dad stepped in. He said ‘I am going to give you two days to feel sorry for yourself and after that you are going to tell me how you are going to help the Girls’ High touch and sevens teams from sitting on the sideline.’ It helped me get through.
“But being selected for NZ did ignite this fire inside me that my dream is to put on a black jersey and represent my country at an Olympic Games.”
Date of Birth: July 2, 2000
Black Ferns Sevens debut:
The dazzling stepper with speed to burn made her Black Ferns Sevens debut in 2020 in Sydney, aged 19, the youngest contracted player in the squad.
Last year she was a travelling reserve with the gold medal-winning squad that triumphed at the Tokyo Olympics but did not get any game time. Covid-19 restrictions have meant Hotham and the rest of the contracted players have been limited to training at the high performance centre in Mount Maunganui.
In March, Hotham was one of the standout performers for the Black Ferns Sevens at the FRU Super Sevens Series in Lautoka, Fiji, followed by four matches against the Olympic bronze medallists Fijiana.
“It was a massively cool opportunity to go to the home of sevens. It was really special to see their appreciation for us being there and for them to be able to play against us.
“You don’t see that on the HSBC Series as everyone is there to do a job. But it was also good to see how much the Fijiana team has grown over time, particularly getting the bronze medal at the Olympics. “There were some really good games and it was excellent preparation for HSBC to play different teams as we have literally been playing against each other for so long.”
The shock retirement of 25-year-old sevens star Gayle Broughton has opened up a potential opportunity for Hotham to claim a starting place in the HSBC Series. The silky-skilled Broughton will be missed by her protégé.
“I have been so blessed to grow up in the team and have Gayle as a mentor, with her playing centre as well. She has a special ability to instil confidence, even when you are playing against her.
“I have been fortunate to train alongside her every day. I am so proud of her to be able to have made that decision but my perspective on it is one door closes, another opportunity opens.
“All I can do is hope to make her proud every time I get on the field.” There is no doubt she has the talent, skills and temperament to take her all the way to the top of the game. But in typical Hotham style, she is not getting ahead of herself.
“Last year was massive with the Olympics but this year we have a Commonwealth Games and a World Cup. Personally, I have just tried to enjoy the journey every single day.
“I am blessed to train alongside the best sevens players in the world. I am just growing and learning so when an opportunity comes for me to step out on the field, then I am ready for it and will do my best.”
The Black Ferns Sevens’ next (and last) World
Series tournament for the season will be
from May 20-22 in Toulouse, France.