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Nicole Beck on being in the number 1 ranked team in Women's Rugby Sevens.

The Aussie Women’s Rugby Sevens team is currently ranked number 1 in the world, and are in pole position for a history-making medal at the Rio Olympics. This weekend they’re playing in France to win the World Series – for the first time ever, for a women’s or men’s team. 

Team member and mother-of-one Nicole Beck writes for Mamamia about how she started playing rugby, and how it’s improved her bond with her daughter.

When kids are young they watch the Olympics and dream of being a part of it, but when I was young Rugby Sevens wasn’t in the Olympics. And honestly, back then, I didn’t care – I hardly knew anything about the sport! It’s amazing now to think that in a couple of months I might be on the plane to Rio, aiming to win the first ever gold medal in women’s Rugby Sevens.

'When we play, we’re representing all female rugby players in Australia'. Image supplied.

I grew up in a family of four kids, with two older brothers and a younger sister, in Bulli, NSW. As a family, we loved sport, and I always wanted to play whatever my brothers were playing – soccer, baseball, anything.

I got into rugby accidentally. When I was in high school I had been playing soccer and touch for five years when my friends and I decided to put a rugby league team together. We figured that it would combine the best of both sports: the skills from touch, and the physical element of soccer. When we found out there wasn’t a rugby league competition for our age group, we formed a rugby union team instead.

'I got into rugby accidentally'. Image Supplied.

I learnt really quickly that I had a lot to learn! Tackling was something I’d never tried before, and for people that don’t understand what’s going on, it can seem like a massive game of ‘stacks on’. I began to love it though – especially the mental, strategic challenges of finding ways to work within the laws of the game to beat your opponents. It’s a really complex and interesting game.

At the same time I was still playing touch. When the ARU (Australian Rugby Union) contacted me to say they’d seen me at the national touch football titles and wanted me to try out for the Australian Sevens Rugby team, I literally thought it was a prank. It was so out of the blue. But that was in 2009 and I’ve been playing Sevens ever since.

'Having a full-time training program actually improved my work-life balance.' Image Supplied.

In 2013, the Australian Women’s Sevens team became “professional” which meant we were paid a full-time wage to train. Before this, I had been working full time, and training after work, and I also had my brand new baby girl, Sophie, to look after.

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Having a full-time training program actually improved my work-life balance. It’s definitely a lot easier than it was when I was working full-time, training on top of that and trying to look after my daughter. The training environment is very family friendly, and Sophie (now aged three) even comes in to training with me on Wednesdays.

Time-wise, I feel like I get to spend more with Sophie now, and she loves that. She’s a real Mummy’s girl.

'When I run out onto the field I obviously always want to make my daughter proud, but it’s about more than my family.' Image supplied.

When I run out onto the field I obviously always want to make my daughter proud, but it’s about more than my family.

When we play, we’re representing all female rugby players in Australia: the girls who play this sport, who want to be in this position, who don’t get to this level, and who don’t get the same recognition. We know we’re lucky to have this opportunity and we take it very seriously – we want to make them proud.

'People, and men particularly, are really surprised at how well we play.' Image supplied.

We play for each other too. I love our team and our camaraderie – it really makes a difference when you enjoy going to work every day. On the field, I know all the girls will be busting themselves to do their job, so I’ve got to pull my weight and do my job. When I make tackles, I make them for my team mates – and I always know they’d always the same for me.

People, and men particularly, are really surprised at how well we play. They’ll tell us they didn’t expect us to have such skills, and speed, and tackle so well. They’ll say “we didn’t expect that from a female team.”

'Tackling was something I’d never tried before.' Image supplied.

They don’t mean it negatively, so I don’t take it negatively.

They’re just trying to be supportive and we want as much support as we can get.

The Aussies Sevens Women’s team will compete for their first-ever World Series title, on May 28-29. They are the first Australian team to qualify for the Rio Olympic games.

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