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ALICE SOPER

Hometown: Wellington

Supports: Black Ferns, Black Ferns 7s, Wellington Pride, Hurricanes and anyone playing Canterbury

Career:

•   Wellington Women’s 7s 2002/03, 12/13

•   Wellington Pride 14, 16, 19, 20

•   Richmond RFC 17/18, 18/19

•   Surrey 17/18

•   Expert Commentary for Sky Sport

•   Host Loosehead Footy

•   Staunch advocate for Women’s Rugby

How did you start playing rugby?

Like all good Kiwi kids, I started playing with the boys on the concrete at lunchtime at my primary school. I didn’t get a chance to play organised rugby until age 13, when my high school sports coordinator put together a school team with my high school, Onslow College, and our traditional sporting rivals, Newlands College and Tawa College.

What made you fall in love with the sport?

Up until that point, I had been a sprinter and a footballer but not much good with fancy feet, more of a hack and hoper. The freedom I felt in rugby, to pin my ears and just find the space that would open up in front of me, was intoxicating. I also loved getting smashed, which was lucky cause I was small when I first started playing, but the resilience it taught me, that I could take the knocks and play on, has given me tools I used in all parts of my life.

I fell in love with the freedom, the physicality, and then stayed for my team mates. I’ve made lifelong friends from all parts of the world just by playing our game.

What do you think makes rugby such a powerful experience for women and girls?

There’s the obvious thing about it being a game for all, that all body types are necessary for a team to succeed, so it is by it’s nature a sport that celebrates diversity.

But I think there is something important that happens when women decide to step into traditionally male prevalent spaces. We realise there is no great mystique, that we are not lesser or weak or anything people might once have told us as we grew. We realise that simply by choosing to participate we have chosen to be more than how other people may perceive us. When we take control of our narratives, the associated expectations become limitless.

Who are the role models or mentors who made a difference in your career?

Marama Tauroa, who brought me into the sport at age 13 and kept me in it by showing me the path which hadn’t yet been formally paved.

Gail Ah-hi, the heart and therefore glue of most club teams I have played in.

Lesley McKenzie, who is constantly mad at me for not pushing that extra 10%.

Ken Laban, a coach whose expertise I didn’t appreciate at the time but whose guidance I frequently now turn to in my adventures off field.

And every little sister I have had the pleasure to work alongside, you are the ones that keep me in the fight.

TIGHT FIVE

1. What’s your middle name?

Not legal but informally, Laura

2. What position do you play? Have you played others as well or before?

My first 10 seasons I was an outside back, playing wing and fullback before working my way in and finally converting to flanker. I played there for 5 years then was picked as a hooker without playing it, for my province (nightmare!). These days I am primarily a hooker. Played a season for Richmond at loosehead and so cover both prop and hook if I’m on the bench for Wellington. 

3. Do you have a lucky game day hairstyle or item of clothing or tape with words- any game day turnout rituals

Coffee in the morning with breakfast in my John Kirwan mug (Google him v Italy)

4. Favourite workout

A group work out of the day, so I can smash through some weight work and get my cardio and competitive fix.

5. How do you want to leave the jersey (and the sport) better for the next generation of female athletes?

I want rugby to love them back. I want their participation to be assumed, recognised and celebrated. I want to be in the stands, beside thousands of others cheering them on.

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