Rugby’s a man’s game, right? I thought so too, until the day I met female players at Twickenham!
Stereotypically, Rugby is the game for witty, upper class poshies from the South who drive about in flashy cars wearing Oakleys. Never did I think that women could play this rough, vivacious game, but you’d better believe that they do!
I went to an open training session at Twickenham thinking I was about to meet Jonny Wilkinson (and I did), but I also got to meet some of the England women’s rugby team, which was the part of the visit which I enjoyed the most. Even at the age of 11, I was refreshed; I was so pleased to see so many women representing their country by doing something which so few people expected of them. I remember coming home that day thinking, “wow, I want to have a go!”
Within a week of my visit, I myself was playing rugby, but I was annoyed to find that I had to play with boys. Not long after joining in, I got to meet my new coach and the rest of the team who, bar one other girl, were all boys. I was really nervous before my first session; I was well and truly thrown in at the deep end, thinking, “ok, this is quite full-on,” but I loved it! It didn’t take much, but kick-started my rugby career then and there. From then on, most of my time at u12’s was spent getting muddy, hitting boys, and most of all, enjoying it.
My favourite memories of my early rugby days include having to get showered in strange new places, or sometimes not showering at all; when you were usually coated head-to-toe in mud and there were no changing facilities, you took every opportunity to cake your dad’s car in mud! One of my other top favourite memories include dumping my boyfriend, who at the time was on the same team as me, in front of the whole team! Up there at the top with dumping him has to be how I was able to get the boys on my team to gang up against anyone who was picking on me!
The less-enjoyable times were those when I got called ‘Sonny’ or ‘Son,’ and had to tell the ref over and over that I was a girl (they could never tell when I was wearing a hat and a thick second skin of mud!). It even got to the point on certain occasions when my coaches would have to shout from the touch line to tell the ref that I wasn’t one of the lads! Other times, people learned I was a girl quite quickly; disappearing under the mud meant that someone might find themselves accidently touching a boob or your bum!
Sometimes, boys on the other team would mock me for being a girl, too; I’d hear them say things like, “she’s just a girl” (you know, the usual), but I’d always make sure to hit them extra hard next time I had the chance, just so that they’d pipe down.
Despite playing only a season with the lunatics on my team, it was well worth taking part. When I left the team, I had no idea what was coming next. I wanted to continue, but wasn’t sure on what path to take. I did know that I would miss the team quite a bit – after all, I did rule the roost at times. Eventually, I did find a girls-only team, and the rest, as they sometimes say, is history!