Can you remember the first time you heard the Australian anthem? As in, the first time you heard it sung for a real, patriotic reason – not just at a school assembly?
I can’t actually remember my first time, but I’d bet good money that it involved my family and I watching a bunch of men in gold jerseys, belting out “Advance Australia Fair” before they took on the world’s best rugby teams.
I grew up watching rugby and the Wallabies, and it shaped my childhood in so many ways. Even my first crush was rugby related (Matt Burke, circa 1999 – I was seven years old, and thought he was the best player ever).
But I was always on the sidelines – cheering on Dad, cheering on my brother, cheering on my guy friends, cheering on the Wallabies.
Nowadays though, I’m cheering on my own teammates from the field.
Since I started playing rugby for real five years ago, it’s been a whirlwind of travel, tackles, parties, physio, beep tests and laughs.
As well as travelling all over the country, I’ve been lucky enough to play against girls from all over the world in the USA, New Zealand, Samoa and most recently to Ireland to play at the Women’s Rugby World Cup in front of sold-out stadiums.
And while it’s amazing to wear the gold jersey and sing the national anthem standing shoulder to shoulder with your best friends, we’ve never been able to do it at home, on the same stage as the boys.
On Saturday 18 August, my teammates and I will run out on ANZ Stadium for our first double-header in our home country. It’ll be the first time I’ve ever worn the gold jersey at home.
And you might think is great for us, the players. But it’s so much more than that. This is our chance to represent not just our country, but the family and friends who’ve been supporting us since day one – before anyone really knew or even cared about women’s rugby.
For the first time, my grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins and friends will be able to watch me represent my country without flying halfway across the world.
See, when we started playing rugby, playing a double-header at ANZ Stadium wasn’t something we could aspire to. The concept was probably laughable to many.
But now there are little girls who will watch us and know that they too can play rugby on the same field as the boys.
When they see us singing the anthem, they will see tall girls and short girls, big girls and small girls and they will know that regardless of their shape or size, they can play any sport and be damn good at it, too.
Who knows, maybe there’ll be little girls who grow up and remember that the first time they heard the national anthem was before watching a bunch of awesome women run into a stadium to do their country proud.
The Wallaroos play the New Zealand Black Ferns on Saturday 18 August, before the Wallabies Bledisloe Cup match against the All Blacks at ANZ Stadium. For details and tickets, visit the ANZ Stadium website.