Q. Do you think we’re at a point where women’s sport in general is taking off?
A. Yes, I think in terms of WBBL, the AFL and those that have taken off, it’s a testament to the sponsors that have come on board and said, you know what, we’re going to back women’s sport and see what happens. You can see with the WBBL [Women’s Big Bash League cricket], just in two years, how far that’s come, and how much support, sponsorship… They’re getting 10,000 people to a game now, and that’s phenomenal for a sport that, same as us, is traditionally male dominated. It’s great to see the big corporate sponsors putting their money where their mouth is, treating males and females equally.
Q. It’s fantastic that you’re a full-time professional footballer and you don’t have to worry about having a job on the side…
A. Yes, we’re very lucky that we get to solely focus on Rugby. We went full-time in January 2014 to become professional athletes to chase that dream of winning an Olympic gold medal. The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) made a decision that if we were going to go and win a gold medal and be competitive, we need to go 110 per cent to achieve that goal. Without their support, we wouldn’t have come away with that gold medal in Rio. We get a fair bit of funding from the ARU, they give us a salary, and we also get money from the Australian Olympic Committee, from their direct athlete support. I haven’t taught for three years now, which is something I dearly miss but we’re very lucky that we get the financial support to solely concentrate on Rugby and not have to worry about things like, ‘can I afford to put petrol in my car?’ We get well supported and looked after, which we’re very thankful for.
Q. Rugby 7s is a rough sport – how do you prepare yourself mentally for that type of physical contact?
A. I guess me growing up with an older brother, and we were always playing backyard footy, and I think it’s something that you sort of grow into. I always liked to be that little bit more aggressive and physical, whereas some of the other girls, they’re a bit hesitant, when they first came into the program, to tackle. That was Charlotte Caslick four or five years ago, now she’s the best swooper in the game and no one gets around her. So it’s definitely something you have to adapt to playing a contact sport. Because for females it’s not something that I guess comes naturally. It’s something you’ve got to mentally apply yourself to be able to do it. We work on the ratio that tackling is 20 per cent technique and 80 per cent attitude.
Q. What’s your training schedule?
A. At the moment we train four days a week, pretty much all day. Wednesday is a recovery day and Mondays and Thursdays are generally heavy days in terms of loading on the body.
Q. What do you do in your downtime?
A. I love the beach, I love to surf. I call it my Zen zone, where I get away from rugby. You can just be out there for an hour or two catching waves and just listening to the ocean and not having to worry about rugby. The brain is clear and you can enjoy the moment.
Q. What would you say to a woman wanting to try out playing Rugby for the first time?
A. Get in there and have a go. Assign yourself to a club, have a few training sessions and see if it’s the right thing for you. One of the hardest things is making that first step to try a new sport.
Support these #womeninsport (and men!) by buying tickets to one or all of the Sydney Sevens games, this Friday, Saturday and Sunday (3-5th February 2017): www.sydneysevens.com.au