RUGGER OF THE MONTH
We know how important it is to appreciate people in the women’s rugby community who are doing great things. The women’s game relies so heavily on people giving their time and effort to help it grow. We want to celebrate these people and give them a little something to say thank you.
Each month we will recognise and reward a different rugger by sending them a gift from us, and also feature them and their good work on our women’s rugby blog. From grassroots to elite level, we want to hear everything about your heroes. Do you know someone who is doing great things in the women’s rugby space?
If you want to nominate someone special be sure to drop us an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Meet Olivia, our August Rugger of the month!
"I loved proving people wrong – I was captain of the local boys rugby team aged ten, and also the only girl playing there."
What is your why? Why do you play rugby?
I play rugby as nowhere else in my day-to-day life have I found something that promotes discipline, teamwork, leadership, and commitment as much as rugby. It pushes me to my physical and mental extremes, where I learn more and more about myself during each game. It creates unbreakable bonds between teammates, both on the pitch, and off it. It is a family, where everyone is welcome, no matter your race, identity, orientation, ethnicity, or age.
How did you start playing rugby?
My primary school maths teacher Mrs Jewitt introduced me to rugby when I was eight years old, and it was love at first sight! I loved the physicality of it – pure grit and determination. My school was around the corner from the local age grade rugby team, so I rushed to the first training session I could.
What made you fall in love with the sport?
I loved proving people wrong – I was captain of the local boys rugby team aged ten, and also the only girl playing there. Boys on other teams would always moan and say ‘ew that team has a girl on it!’ to which I loved to prove them wrong and show that I was just as good if not better than my boy teammates. It was especially satisfying making these mean boys cry after my tackles! The team aspect of the sport I also immediately fell for; you are only as strong as your weakest man, and at times this is frustrating. However, it builds an incredibly strong connection between you and your teammates, one that I have yet to replicate in real life. The diversity at each rugby team is also so special – you will never get such a mix of characters as you do in a women’s rugby team.
Who are the role models that made a difference to you?
My first coach Stu was a former bodybuilder and if you looked at him, you’d think he was a typical ‘lads lad’ who would not allow a girl on his all-boys rugby team. However, he was one of the first people to truly believe in me and ultimately pushed me to strive for higher levels of rugby. From playing and captaining the boys team for a few years, I moved to my first girls rugby team at Darlington Mowden Park. At this time, the senior Sharks ladies team had the likes of Katy Daley-McLean and Tamara Taylor.
I was in awe of these incredible international players; how they conducted themselves at training, their discipline and also how down to earth they were. When I had rugby trials for the divisional rugby system, these international women helped to coach me, which ultimately led to my success at the North of England rugby level. Training week in week out next to these players really made a difference in my personal development.
What are some of the challenges that women’s rugby faces?
How long is a piece of string? Women’s rugby is still rife with challenges and inequality, and quite frankly, it is exhausting at times. Within the recent Women’s Six Nations, a rerun of Flog It! was shown on the BBC instead of live international women’s rugby… you would never dream of replacing Men’s Six Nations rugby in this way. Whilst coverage of international women’s rugby has improved over the past ten years, with it now residing confidently within BBC iPlayer, it is frustrating as a fan to watch a game with poor commentary, no build up, and no half time punditry.
Challenges to the sport also include the vile, inappropriate, and incorrect comments that are left under news articles regarding the women’s game, and within own players’ social media accounts. Countless men saying that women’s rugby will never be on the same level as the men’s game, and that it is pointless even giving it screen time, and that perhaps women should return to the kitchen. People do not understand that women’s rugby will never be the same as men’s rugby; we are biologically different. However, this does not mean women’s rugby is not entertaining if you’re a viewer, or not physically demanding if you’re a player. The recent Premier 15s final with Harlequins vs Saracens was an excellent spectacle for women’s rugby, especially with its coverage on BT sport. From my own experiences, I have felt challenged throughout my rugby career.
Currently playing in the elite women’s rugby Super League, I know for a fact I am viewed second to the men in this same competition. I must travel 220 miles for my training 2-3 times per week, all of which I must self-fund. I have had to pick up an extra part time job for this. You would never be challenged to do this in the men’s Super League level. Recently we had a game cancelled, despite being five minutes from kick off, due to no doctor being present. Being an oversight constantly due to rugby governing bodies’ ignorance is the biggest challenge to this sport.
QUICK FIRE Qs
What's your middle name?
What position do you play?
Union – 12. League – Loose Forward/Second Row
What’s your gameday ritual?
Listen to loud heavy rock music such as Rage Against the Machine, eat as much carbs as my body will allow and plenty of pre-game stretching.
I am an absolute gym rat, so anything involving a good strength workout is my favourite! At the moment I am especially enjoying chin ups – it’s really satisfying to be able to pull your own bodyweight!
How do you want to leave the jersey better for the next generation of female athletes?
I would love for the next generation of female athletes to never have to question how their gender identity may affect their sporting aspirations. I would also love for female athletes to not be viewed in the male gaze. The Norwegian women’s beach handball team was recently handed a fine for not playing in bikinis, which leads me to question: what advantage does wearing a bikini give to athletes? Why do men get to wear vests and shorts for beach handball?
Specific to rugby also, the new Ireland rugby kit designed by Canterbury was modelled by female models and not women’s rugby players. Why was it not modelled by women’s rugby players? Were their bodies not good enough to sell these jerseys? I hope that over the next few years, women’s rugby will continue to grow, and these negative comments and challenges will be drowned out by positive comments and improvements.