Spain captain Bimba is living his rugby dream with Tui


Spanish rugby captain Laura Delgado Dueñas has fulfilled her dream of playing in the Farah Palmer Cup. Aiden McLaughlin meets the best hammer thrower turned pro rugby prop playing for the Hawkes Bay Tui.

Waipukurau is a world away from Laura Delgado Dueñas’ hometown of Jerez in southern Spain, where the local sports ground is named in her honor.

But it’s here, in the town of Central Hawkes Bay, where the Spanish rugby captain has been living and playing for the past few months, as she continues to live out her rugby dream.

Known in Spain by her nickname Bimba, Delgado Dueñas arrived in New Zealand after a full season for the Exeter Chiefs club in England, where she helped them win the 2022 Allianz Cup.

Next season, Delgado Dueñas will play for rival club Gloucester-Hartpury. But before that, she was determined to fulfill one of her rugby ambitions.

“When Gloucester offered me a contract, one of the things they must have known was that I was going to New Zealand in June and July because it’s a dream for me to play rugby here,” says Delgado Dueñas.

The 32-year-old loose prop played the full 80 minutes for Hawkes Bay Tui in their Farah Palmer Cup opener against Otago Spirit in Hastings last Saturday and will line up for them again this Sunday afternoon when they will face North Harbor Hibiscus in Albany.

From there, Delgado Dueñas will travel to South Africa to join his international teammates, known as ‘Las Leonas’, for a two-Test series against the Springboks.

The first test will be played at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg as a curtain raiser to the Rugby Championship clash between South Africa and the All Blacks on August 13, while the second will be played at Fanie du Toit Stadium in Potchefstroom on August 19. august. .

Laura Delgado Dueñas is a gambling legend in Spain. Photo: Hawkes Bay Rugby

Ideally, Delgado Dueñas’ next rugby assignment would be back here in New Zealand, for the Rugby World Cup from October 8.

But after qualifying for the 2014 and 2017 tournaments, Spain – currently ranked 10th in the world – failed to make it through this period, having played in their European qualifying tournament in Italy last September.

Although they beat Ireland 8-7 in their opener, they lost to Scotland 27-22 before losing 34-10 to hosts Italy in their last encounter.

Instead, Delgado Dueñas will return to England for the start of the Allianz Cup round-robin group stages in September, ahead of the Allianz Premier 15s season in November once the Rugby World Cup is over.

Delgado Dueñas’ rugby career at home in Spain started relatively late. Her family was keen on athletics and she was a very successful hammer thrower, who aspired to represent Spain at the Olympics.

A motorcycle accident curtailed that ambition and over time a new door opened.

“When I was 18, a friend of ours told me to try rugby and I fell in love with it,” she says. “I was throwing the hammer at a high level and when I decided to play rugby instead, no one around me could believe I would change. But I loved the sport and its values.

Delgado Dueñas, who made his debut for the Spanish national team in 2014 before becoming captain in 2018. Last year, the sports complex in his hometown was named Laura Delgado Dueñas Bimba in honor of his outstanding career of rugby player.

Delgado Dueñas during the christening ceremony in his hometown.

Here in New Zealand, ‘Bimba’ has brought a new dimension to the Tui team.

“I am a person who likes to travel and discover other cultures and I have had the opportunity to play for teams all over the world”, says Delgado Dueñas. “The Tui is my 12th rugby team. I’ve played in Spain, France, USA, England and now New Zealand.

Napier Tech and Tui player Michaela Baker previously played in northwest Spain for the CRATA Coruña team and have passed on to Delgado Dueñas the contact details of Mary-Jane Durkin, the Women’s High Performance Manager at Hawkes Bay Rugby.

“She brings a wealth of experience as a prop having played in so many countries around the world,” says Durkin.

“His positive attitude and understanding of high performance is very evident. With Spain missing out on a spot for this year’s World Cup, they took the opportunity to communicate with us as playing in the Farah Palmer Cup was on their to-do list,” she said.

Delgado Dueñas loved his time in the region and being with a new group of teammates. As well as representing Tui, she played for the Central Hawkes Bay club and lived with Hawkes Bay Magpies players Joel Hintz and Zach Simpson.

“I feel part of the team,” says Delgado Dueñas. “I appreciate them and they appreciate me and I always try to give my 100%. I’m a very energetic person and I love sharing my energy and my experience with them, and I already feel part of this family. I feel very, very lucky to have the opportunity to come here.

Delgado Dueñas hopes to use her global experience to advance the women’s game at home. Photo: Hawkes Bay Rugby

Having played in the 2017 Rugby World Cup in Ireland, Delgado Dueñas is determined to play the 2025 tournament in England and is optimistic about his country’s chances of qualification.

“In Spain, we are improving our performance. We see more players arriving at a younger age. We are in a new generation [of players] and it’s very exciting,” she says.

Although women’s rugby 15 in Spain is currently amateur (the game of sevens is professional as it is an Olympic sport), there is a competitive first division with eight teams, as well as a second division and regional leagues. Some of his Delgado Dueñas national teammates also play professionally in England and France.

Spain were previously part of the Five Nations competition in Europe in 2000 and 2001, as well as the Six Nations format which replaced it from 2002. But despite performing well (they finished third in 2004 and fourth in 2002 and 2005), the Six Nations committee approved the replacement of Spain by Italy – aligning the women’s teams in the competition with those of the men from 2007.

“We need to find more top games. As we are not part of the Six Nations tournament, we are still fighting [to get some],” she says.

When she is done playing, Delgado Dueñas would like to work in sports management (she has a degree in management and business administration and a master’s degree in sports facilities management). But before that, she has a lot to give to the game that she is passionate about.

“I love the atmosphere; I like values ​​and I like how I can improve myself every day. I feel very lucky to be able to have all these opportunities around the world,” she says.

“For me, the challenge of adapting and giving 100% to my team makes me happy.”

*Hawkes Bay Tui takes on North Harbor Hibiscus on Sunday at noon at North Harbor Stadium, Albany; live coverage on Sky Sport 1.

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