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NRL's Meg Ward: 'When I was 15, I came out to my family. They struggled with it at first.'

NRL
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Speaking to Meg Ward, RAAF firefighter, Harvey Norman Jillaroos player and inaugural NRL Holden Women’s Premiership winner with the Brisbane Broncos, one thing is clear: she’s not interested in letting being a woman define her.

The 24-year-old Queensland Maroons player, who is currently based with the RAAF in Amberley, has lived a life full of challenging stereotypes. Everything from being in the Defence Force, to coming out to her family at the age of 15, is testament to her determination to live the life she wants – not the life others think she should lead.

“My advice to young girls is, if there’s something you want to do, then do it,” Ward tells Mamamia.

“Don’t think about whether something is ‘for girls’ or ‘for boys’.”

Ward says she’s never let the concept of gender stand in her way.

 

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“I don’t believe in ‘men can do something, and women can’t’. I think we’re all equally capable. Like when people suggest changing training to suit women; no.

“We can all physically do the same thing. And we should be allowed to prove that.”

This strong sense of gender equality is something Ward has believed in since she was a young girl.

“I was a tomboy,” she laughs.

“But really, I was just a girl who liked doing things the boys liked doing. At school, most of my friends were boys, because I was into what they were into.”

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Ward admits it wasn’t always easy for those around her to accept how she wanted to live her life.

“When I was 15, I came out to my family. They struggled with it a bit at first. But then eventually, they were OK.

“Going through that made me stronger, and it made us closer. From then on, my parents really got behind me.”

Ward strongly feels every young person has a right to feel accepted for who they are.

“I never got to choose who I love, I just loved who I loved, and my parents could see that.

“I hope for young people coming out these days there’s more acceptance, otherwise, it’s too much pressure on teens. They have enough to worry about without wondering if people will understand them.”

These days, a very chuffed Ward is more than happy to talk about who she loves now; her partner, rugby player Natassja Flynn.

“I’m so happy,” Ward says with a smile in her voice.

“Natassja’s amazing, so supportive.

“It’s great that she’s a fellow athlete, because we can train together almost every chance we get, which is pretty much every day. That keeps us really close.

“She’s my family, and she’s beautiful.”

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Ward says Flynn is one of her biggest motivators to get up each day – as is the rest of her family.

“My family means everything to me. My parents are my number one fans. They come to training sessions and every game.”

And of course, there’s Ward’s other great love: rugby league, which to her is a way of life, and so much more than a game.

“I feel so lucky doing what I love every day,” she says. “The game’s come a long way for women, and that’s so exciting.

“Women playing rugby league are doing things differently than the men. Firstly, the pay’s not at the same level – so a lot of us are still trying to hold down full-time jobs and train and play, too.

“Because we have to work so hard at it, it makes us acknowledge it’s a privilege to get to do what we do, to be professional athletes. We had to fight for the chance and are still fighting for it.

“So we don’t take this for granted. We take this responsibility to the future of the sport seriously.”

But for Ward and her team mates, their image, and being role models, is everything to them.

“I’ve got more followers on social media these days. The girls on the team, we all get that there are eyes on us.

“We’ve got a standard to hold. People are watching us. We’re more aware.

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Being a typically positive person, it comes naturally to Ward to not take her role in the NRLW for granted; but that was driven home in November last year when she experienced a very serious neck injury.

“I had a ruptured disc in my neck and needed surgery,” Ward explains.

“It was shattering to be forced to slow down. I had four weeks of downtime and it was a real challenge.

“Of course, my partner was fantastic, making sure I got out for little walks every day.”

But emotionally, the episode took its toll on Ward, especially because her surgeon had warned her there was a chance she wouldn’t be able to play football again.

“It was so hard at the time, but it also taught me to enjoy every moment.

“You never know when it could all change for you, so don’t take anything for granted.”

Ward recovered with her usual resilience, and has now played four games, without incident. On June 21, she’ll represent the Maroons in the Holden Women’s State of Origin at North Sydney Oval.

“I was nervous at first, thinking I’d injure myself again, but I just did it, and it was great.”

It’s a perfect example of the fighting spirit that’s got Ward living a life she loves, and is immensely proud of.

NRL

It’s the same toughness. The same skill. The same passion. Same Game. Our Way. Meg Ward epitomises this notion, playing for the Brisbane Broncos in the NRLW and for the Queensland Maroons, whilst also working as a firefighter in the RAAF in Amberley. Find out more about women’s Rugby League at www.nrl.com/womens

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