health

This is what life is like when you're a professional rugby player.

I say women’s rugby. What do you say?

Let’s play a little game of word association.

I say “women’s rugby”. What do you say?

Probably not much. Not many people have ever even seen a game of women’s rugby. And most of them are probably happy to guess that it’s just a lesser version of men’s rugby.

Slower. Not as exciting. Not nearly as much contact. It’s probably just a bit of a different version of women’s touch football, right?

Wrong. Women’s rugby is an incredibly demanding and fast-paced sport. It requires extreme levels of fitness and commitment from the girls who play. And there is zero difference between men’s and women’s rugby, which many people don’t realise.

We have an incredibly strong women’s rugby team who are just about to head over to the World Series in Amsterdam. They’re currently placed in second and if they can beat the Kiwis, they’ll come away with the gold.

I asked Emilee Cherry, a centre player in the Rugby Sevens, to tell us about her life as a professional female rugby player. Here’s what she had to say…

I grew up in the bush. I’m from the middle of Queensland and I played every sport growing up. I played a lot with my brothers, a lot of backyard footy and touch. Touch is definitely the one I stayed with for as long as I could.

I got scouted across from touch football, when I was playing for Australia in the under 20s. Two months later, I was playing in Dubai. Most of the girls who play in Rugby Sevens have come from a touch football background.

I play centre at the moment. I first started on the wing, as I had a bit of pace when I started, and gradually moved in. I do get a lot of time with the ball so I think centre suits me.

Emilee Cherry

The great thing about rugby is that there’s a lot of space on the field. It means that the game is really challenging – you’ve got a lot of space to run with the ball when you do get it. It’s very quick paced and it’s a contact game, which makes it more exciting than touch football.

But to be good at rugby you have to be extremely committed. Fitness is such a big part of the game. At the start, I was really lacking fitness and that made it really difficult for me. Now we’re training at Narrabeen and we’re there four days a week. Usually the day consists of a gym session and another field session.

On the other three days, most of the other girls go surfing. I’m actually studying uni full-time at the moment, so I’m trying to finish that off. I’m studying to be a PE teacher. It gets very tough balancing uni and sport. You really have to learn right away how to manage your time and how to do well in everything because you don’t want to sacrifice one to do badly in the other.

We also travel a lot, which makes things a little bit more difficult. We’ve been to Dubai and Atlanta and we just got back from China. We’re also off to the World Series in Amsterdam in a few weeks. At the moment, we’re sitting in second place behind the Kiwis, so we’re hoping to get on top this year and win the series.

The Kiwis have been the standard in rugby across the world – they’re really the team to beat. They’re such a physical country and so buff and fit that they do so well.

Off the field, everyone’s always laughing and joking. But as soon as it gets to game day, everyone really knuckles down and the biggest rivalry is between the Kiwis and the Aussies. Luckily between the teams, the game is so quick that you don’t get any bitchiness, and off the field our coach Tim Walsh has created a really good culture where you just really enjoy everyone else’s company.

When people find out that I play women’s rugby, they’re pretty surprised and they want to know if it’s actually a contact sport or if we just touch. But generally reactions are really interested in finding out more about the sport.

More girls should definitely look into playing rugby. It’s now an Olympic sport, so you can go to the Olympics and represent your country – and that’s a huge drawcard. (Rio 2016 will be the first time Rugby Sevens will be played at the Olympics.)

So if you’re keen, just give it a go. We all had to start somewhere. It’s such a fun-loving and fast-paced sport that most people will just love it.

And in other sports news from the week…

– Aussie basketball player Liz Cambage has announced that she won’t be returning to play with US team Tulsa Shock. The 6-foot-8 player has announced that she prefers to stay with the Australian National Team in preparation for the World Championships this summer – and we don’t blame her! You can read our interview with the lovely Liz here.

– Sally Shiphard announced her retirement from playing football with a lovely piece posted up on Football Australia. In it, she explained that physical reasons are the main reason for her decision: “My knees continue to swell following bouts of running and unfortunately… football incorporates plenty of it!” Sally has played for the Matildas for a decade and won many admirers through her incredible ability. We wish her all the best.

– Rob Wright, 45-year-old netball coach of the NSW Swifts, has said that he wants gender to be irrelevant when it comes to coaching sport. He spoke to the media before the NSW vs Southern Steel game at AIS arena, saying: “To coach in the world’s best domestic league is a huge honour, regardless of whether you’re male or female… In any sport, I think knowledge and ability should override gender.” Well said, Mr Wright.

– The Women’s National Baseball Championships and the touch football 2014 Trans Tasman series have both kicked off. We wish our Aussie teams the best of luck.

Have you seen anything in the sporting world that you’d like to talk about?

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