An articulate and engaging young woman, you get the sense Hannah Blake is rarely lost for words. But the talented teen admits she didn’t quite know what to say when told she had been selected for the Football Ferns’ two-match tour of Thailand this month.
The 17-year-old is yet to graduate from high school but is already on the verge of making her senior international debut and is still coming to terms with that prospect.
“It was very surprising actually,” the Saint Kentigern College student says of her surprise selection.
“It was something I always hoped would happen but never really felt it had the potential to come to fruition. It was pretty unbelievable at first but when it sunk in it was extremely exciting,” she adds.
“To be called up for the national team at 17 is pretty hard to understand and put into words. My parents and especially my brother were so happy for me and they were glad all the hard work I’ve been putting in is beginning to pay off.”
Blake joined Maggie Jenkins, Elise Mamanu-Gray and Jana Radosavljevic in receiving a Ferns call-up for the first time as stand-in coaches Andreas Heraf and Gareth Turnbull elected to give some fresh faces the chance to impress.
Having been handed an unexpected opportunity, she intends to make the most of it.
“It was good getting the call up and knowing they see potential in me. I think the main thing for me is just to learn really – I need to learn from the coaches and older players and just take away as much as I can from the environment. Then I have to bring those learnings back and apply them in my own environment so hopefully I can keep getting opportunities like this and grow as a player.”
The only downside to Blake’s selection is that she is not able to help her Auckland team mates earn a place in the National Women’s League playoffs as the competition enters its final regular season round this weekend. But she has faith there will still be a role for her to play when she returns from Thailand.
“It’s disappointing not to be able to see out the end of the round robin with the team but I couldn’t turn down this opportunity and it’s really important for me as a player,” she explains.
“That said, I’ve grown a lot through the Auckland team this year and we’ve turned into a great team. I’m very confident in the girls back home and I think, with one game to go, we’re definitely going to be fighting hard for a playoff spot. If things go well, I’m sure we can come back to Auckland and lace up the boots again for some finals footy.”
While this is the first time she will be fully immersed in the Football Ferns environment, Blake will have a couple of familiar faces for company as fellow Auckland stars Stephanie Skilton and Grace Jale are also on the Thailand tour.
The New Zealand-based players arrived in Bangkok today and Blake is pleased to have some friends on hand to help her settle in.
“It’s always nice having some familiar faces to ease your nerves. But I’m sure I’ll be able to find my feet early enough and hopefully make some new friendships,” she says.
“I’ve had a few experiences training with some of the Ferns before but not all collectively. They’ve all been super welcoming so far and I’m really looking forward to being able to share the training field with them, as well as learning from them in all areas of the tour really.”
Blake has already begun that education on her first day in the Football Ferns camp and will look to take the next step by playing a role in the first match of the tour against Thailand on Saturday.
Football Ferns forward Hannah Blake
Football Ferns tour of Thailand
Thailand vs New Zealand
Saturday 25 November, 5pm (11pm NZT)
PAT Stadium, Bangkok
Thailand vs New Zealand
Tuesday 28 November, 5pm (11pm NZT)
SCG Stadium, Bangkok