Little girls don’t usually grow up saying they want to be rugby players. Rugby is traditionally stereotyped as a boy’s game.
“I definitely wasn’t thinking I would be a rugby player,” Australian Women’s Sevens Rugby back rower Charlotte Caslick told Business Insider after training.
“I grew up around rugby, my brothers played, but I didn’t think I was going to be a professional rugby player.”
This journo remembers asking my dad if I could play rugby at around age eight, both my brothers also played, and there were a couple of girls on some of the teams in the local comp. I clearly remember him smiling at me, probably thinking the idea was cute, but telling me it was absolutely out of the question.
It was this stereotype that only solid women play rugby which has seen many young girls never get to experience the game – which is just as much about tactics as it is about force.
“Being able to make smart choices under fatigue and pressure is important,” Caslick said.
The young Aussie Sevens girls are breaking down the butch barrier, playing professional rugby for their country. Yep – that’s their full time job. These girls are pros.
Training three to four days a week, the women’s Sevens are toned, strong, trim, healthy and fit. They are far from what many would picture them to be and harbouring self discipline and motivation they are potentially much stronger role models for the next generation of girls.
“No one probably knew that girls could play rugby even a year ago, and now we’re on Fox Sports,” Caslick said.
So put aside any preconceptions you may have about girls playing rugby. Because these ladies have game.
A young squad, with the majority in their 20s, back rower Caslick is fresh out of school and has dreams of going to the Rio Olympics in two years time.
A dream which also drives Sevens’ utility Gemma Etheridge who left a career in radiography to go pro.
“I left a professional career to move to Sydney and become a full time athlete and get the chance to maybe got to the Olympics,” she said.
“Women’s sport is starting to get recognised and there’s a lot more pathways starting to open up now.”
In training today, the squad ran the length of the rugby field in 17 seconds flat, kicked the ball with accuracy and were making strong and stealthy passes.
“We’re constantly improving,” Sevens back Ellia Green said, adding they run about 20 kilometres over three training blocks in a week as well as do multiple gym and strategy sessions.
But it isn’t all Olympic dreams and drills, women’s sport does suffer from less exposure and funding which means many female athletes aren’t paid on par with their male counterparts.
“There is that perception that women get paid less, but there are opportunities,” Etheridge said of the inequalities.
The girls said after you do contact sport for a while the tackles no longer hurt and surprisingly they aren’t covered in bruises.
“When I first started the first camps with the girls I felt like I had been hit by a train but you get used to it,” Green said.
However, the career of any sportsperson is on borrowed time. The toll contact sport take on your body, regardless of gender, means it is a profession for the young, something the girls realise.
Etheridge said she would return to radiography while Caslick has ambitions of being a midwife or a vet nurse and Green wants to go into body-sculpting when the boots are eventually hung up.
“I’ve got my whole life to have a job,” Caslick said.
A fundraising lunch for the girls’ Rio Olympic campaign is being hosted by the Royal Motor Yacht Club in Sydney on September 5. More here.
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