Steph Hancock chats to me over the phone, as she drives home from an eight-hour shift as a police officer. She was up early, having finished work by just after 2pm.
She’s heading home, she tells me, not to put her feet up, but to throw her stuff in a bag and head back out the door. She’s off to the gym.
Because when you work full time and juggle a professional sporting career on the side, your feet are only up when they’re sleeping. And when you’re sleeping? Well, you’re invariably woken early, or in bed late. After all, there are World Cups to train for and bills that need to be paid.
So is the life of a female athlete.
Hancock is 35, a professional Australian rugby league player, a police officer and a mum-of-one. (Yeah, that too.)
The Jillaroos leadership group member’s schedule is hectic, demanding and time-consuming. For as talented as she is on the field, and in her line of work, her greatest strength is arguably her ability to manage her time.
Remarkably, she’s juggled – with graceful-like precision – both balls in the air for more than 10 years. She tells Mamamia her jobs, both on and off the field, have been made that much easier the further women’s sport, and women’s rugby league, has come.
“From where I started [in 2003] to where I am now – you can’t compare it,” she tells us, with obvious pride. “It’s everything. It’s from being treated equally to the funding.”
Hancock recalls playing in New Zealand at one point, where the combination of flights, accommodation and competition fees meant each player was lumped with a $5000 bill.
“Even when the World Cup was in Australia, my dad [Rohan Hancock, former Australian Rugby League player] sponsored us, but we still had to pay $2000-$3000 each.
“Now, we don’t pay for anything and we are treated like royalty.”
Hancock’s first foray into the sport happened when she was a very young junior.