Tokyo Olympics: Football Ferns draw inspiration from sick teammates for Games tilt

The Football Ferns remain unphased by the three positive COVID-19 cases confirmed inside the athlete's village, as they countdown to the start of their Olympic campaign.

New Zealand begin their campaign against Australia on Wednesday, undeterred by growing COVID cases, and with motivation not hard to come by.

The Football Ferns will be the first New Zealand athletes to compete at these Games, and kick-off against their trans-Tasman foes can't come soon enough.

"The football side and that excitement around this first game and this first task starts to feel even more heightened," captain Ali Riley says.

Heightened excitement about what's to come on the field, but off it there's no hiding from COVID-19, continuing to cast a shadow in Tokyo.

There have been three positive cases in the athletes village already.

"To be making our safety a priority is obviously the most important thing to us," Riley adds.

"From the type of masks we're wearing, to where we're sitting in the dining hall...and what areas of the village we're allowed to go in."

But coach Tom Sermani is adamant news of positive cases won't deter or distract the Ferns, who continue their preparation for their Olympic opener against Australia as normal.

"You're kind of in your own bubble anyway," Sermanni says.

"You're in your rooms, you're in your group. You go to the dining room, you go to training and you come back again."

When the Football Ferns open their Olympic account at Tokyo Stadium on Wednesday, they'll do so without Rebekah Stott - who's been battling cancer - and Rosie White who's also struck with illness.

"It just drives us that little bit more because we're doing this for them... they're just a huge inspiration for us," says Hannah Wilkinson. "We're all in the same fight together." 

And while they may not be here with the team, they'll certainly be in the players' thoughts, inspiration to climb out of the "group of the death".

NZ are joined by world champions USA, world No. 5 Sweden and trans-Tasman rivals Australia in Group G - all ranked inside the top 10.

The Ferns' best result at an Olympics came at London 2012, when they reached the quarter-finals, before being knocked out by the USA.

They'll need something special to go close to that in Tokyo.

Watch the full story above

Join Newshub for live updates of the Football Ferns v Australia from 11:30pm Wednesday.