Highland Dancing Is Miller’s Secret Seven’s Weapon

Jorja Miller may be 19 years old but the impact she's hav­ing on the world of Rugby 7s cannot be underestimated.
11 May 2023 20:40
Highland Dancing Is Miller’s Secret Seven’s Weapon
Black Ferns 7s star, Jorja Miller.

Jorja Miller may be 19 years old but the impact she’s hav­ing on the world of Rugby 7s cannot be underestimated.

Just a year out from the next Olympic Games in Paris, The Black Ferns star has been mes­merising opposition defences as part of a team that has won five of this year’s six World Rugby Sevens Series tournaments with only one left to play.

New Zealand head into the final tournament of the series, which takes place in Toulouse from tomorrow May 12-14′, on a five­tournament winning streak with the destination of the overall title firmly in their hands.

To top it all off, they have already secured qualification for Paris 2024, where they will aim to defend the title they won two years ago at Tokyo 2020.

While rugby is a way of life for so many in New Zealand, even the fans back home have been left mightily impressed by Miller, who boasts a record of 75 points from 36 matches, including 15 tries.

And the fleet-footed Miller has an ace up her sleeve when it comes to beating her rivals on the rugby field: Highland Dancing.

“I think it gives me an upper hand,” Miller told in an exclusive interview.

“Agility, being able to move later­ally. Just that explosive and almost random footwork, which is defi­nitely from Highland Dancing.”

Miller began both rugby and Highland Dancing at just four years old – rugby with her broth­er’s team and dancing alongside her relatives.

“My mum and my nanna used to dance, so I guess it was just a thing! I just went along to dancing and got into it,” she said.

But as with rugby, where she has made her way onto one of the most fiercely-contested national team setups in the world, the young girl from Timaru isn’t half bad at dancing.

As an age group national cham­pion specialising in the ‘Sailor’s Hornpipe’ and a promising rugby player, there came a point where Miller had to choose between the two.

“It was always a struggle tossing up between rugby and dancing,” she said. “Which is I guess cool looking at it now!”

Miller’s speed of movement and footwork have now become a trade­mark of her playing style, and her passion for dance has even rubbed off on some of her teammates – in­cluding one who is a gold medallist from Tokyo and the first-ever play­er to score 200 tries in the Sevens Series.

“I never used to show anyone my dancing, but then the girls con­vinced me,” she explained.

While Highland Dancing may not be on the Olympic programme, Rugby 7s most certainly is.

New Zealand has been on the po­dium both times Rugby 7s featured at the Olympics, winning silver at Rio 2016 before an impressive gold last time out in Tokyo.

For Miller, the Olympics have always been a dream of hers; one that she is likely to fulfil next year in Paris.

“I think growing up, everyone just wants to go to the Olympics no matter what sport it was,” Miller told us, before later adding with a laugh: “Paris is going to be an amazing event. Especially watch­ing [Netflix series] Emily in Par­is … inspired by that too!”

“It’s an amazing feeling having such a streak of wins,” said Miller. “Obviously winning is important but we don’t think of it like that. Although we’re winning, we still want to refine our jobs and what we’re doing on the field so that we can be better for the next tourna­ment – and continuously evolving so we can always have an upper hand over our opponent.”

For the on-pitch rivals of Miller, who have seen her dance around them effortlessly as part of an un­stoppable New Zealand team, the prospect of her continuing to get better must be nothing short of terrifying.

The Paris 2024 Rugby 7s tourna­ment begins on Wednesday, July 24, and ends on Tuesday, July 30, 2024, while Jorja Miller’s 2023 World Rugby Sevens Series finale takes place between May 12-14 in Toulouse.




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