Women in a Wruck

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2017 saw the launch of the inaugural AON Rugby 7’s Women’s National University series. A fantastic development for Australian women in rugby, having the opportunity to travel inter-state and compete in a four-tournament series, jam-packed of talent development and to much excitement Olympic Gold medallists! 
The ARU agreed to include at least two Australian Sevens players in each of the nine university teams, across the country.

Pictured in the tweet from Aussie 7s, representing the Macquaire University Sydney Rays, is in fact myself! As a rookie to Rugby and Rugby 7s, only playing for one season. I took a dive in the deep end, learning to play something totally different (and totally fun!) after competing in Track and Field for the majority of my life and fortunately the opportunity of representing my country a few times over. This series was such a fantastic way to immerse myself in Rugby Union, as I was given the valuable opportunity to learn and develop as a player.

The Sydney Rays turned their program into a professional, contract-based team. Indulging in all the professional aspects of a National union team. We were very spoilt with experienced 7s coach Nathan McMmahon taking lead, assistant coach Australian Rugby 7s Olympian James Stannard and Strength and Conditioning king Tim Rowland. 

Tim provided a state of the art strength program for the Rookies, like myself who were new to Union. He gave us the skill development to mould into confident rugby women, not to be reckoned with on the field. Additionally we had a gruelling, but necessary two-day training camp, at the Australian Rugby 7S HQ, Sydney Academy of Sport Narrabean; prior to the first round for the AON series.

We were also given team building days, including goal-setting and personal development, game day and training video analysis tools, access to recovery systems post-game including Cryotherapy, plunge pools and pool recovery sessions. Experienced on-site physiotherapists were implemented for training and game day needs. We were even given a boots sponsor from ”X-Blades,” which are the most comfortable, durable footy boots I’ve ever owned! And to top it off, an insightful team manager, keeping us all in the loop.

The series kicked off in icy Tasmania on 25-26th August, our Rays women taking out the silver medal for the tournament. The next series was on home turf 8-9th September, at Macquaire University Sport Fields. Unfortunately we missed out on a medal-match and finished fourth. The final two tournaments were in maroon territory playing at University of Queensland 15th-16th September and Bond University HQ 29th-30th. With two silver medals to add to the collection, it was enough for the Macqauire Rays to finish bronze on the overall medal tally, behind the champions University of Queensland and silver medallists Bond University.

In my eighteen years, of elite track and field, this program was something Athletics can take a leaf from. I felt supported, welcomed and indulged in a wealth of knowledge on how to improve my rugby performance, quickly and efficiently. It was also incredibly insightful and motivating to have Olympian Chloe Dalton and Australian representative Dominique De Toit, playing alongside our Rays.

I was lucky enough to feature in the ”women-doing-wonderful-things-in-sport” podcast by Mary Konstantopoulos ”Ladies Who League,” Prior to the AON Series kick-off. Take a listen to this passionate woman’s guide to Rugby League and celebrating all things happening in the Australian sporting world.

Ladies Who League Podcast

Thanks to this Rugby series, I was lucky enough to be a part of a national program. To have met (and tackled) women of all backgrounds, of all different levels of experience and of determination and strength. I could not be more excited for the future of Rugby 7s in Australia. With the amount of talent I got to witness on that paddock, we are in for a few more gold medals yet, Australia!
To keep up to date with The Sydney Rays, especially ahead of the first Women’s NRC 15-aside series, check out: http://www.raysrugby.com.au

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You are Enough. 

Even when you don’t think so. 

And you, absolutely matter! 

Firstly I ask you to please remember why you started. Remember why you continued. Remember why you are still here. Remember why you get out of bed everyday.

Every person’s ‘why‘ is going to be different. And every person’s why is beautiful. It’s the why I am here. It’s the vision in your mind when someone’s asked the younger version of yourself ‘what do you want to be when you grow up.’ It’s the why that I keep pushing, each day. To Keep making a better life for myself. A better future for myself, my family. And to make my people, happy. It’s the why that I want to keep going. Need to. Don’t let your younger self down. The dream isn’t dead, until you stop trying! 

It’s the why I keep putting myself out there, again and again. It’s the why I won’t settle for a mediocre life. That I won’t settle for anything that what I’m capable of living. This makes me strive to do Something passionate with my life. And why I strive to share a passionate life, with that someone else. And also why I will never give up on that someone.

It’s the why, that I come back to the track and the field each day. Knowing I can go one better than yesterday. It’s the why, that gets me through training sessions I train so hard I puke. It’s the why that makes me want to work hard now, so my family won’t have it so hard. It’s the why that makes me want to make something of myself, so I can use that to make a difference to someone in need’s life. To the greater world. 

It’s the why, that I am writing this. To encourage you. To please, no matter how hard it gets. No matter how bad you want to throw in the towel. Don’t stop doing what you’re doing. With whatever you’ve got. Right now.

You always have one more round left! Someone, somewhere is cheering for you. And someone you don’t even know believe’s in you. I believe in you

Don’t give up on your why.

Please, Don’t give up on yourself! 

Your Weight, Does Not Weigh You Up

The scales. A dreaded world in an average person who is aspiring to better themself physically’s – vocabulary.

For some people, you may simply wish the number was just a little lower. For some a whole lot. And for some, realistically they wish the number was higher.

Truth is, the scales do not weigh up what kind of person you are. They do not define you. And never should dictate your happiness.

As a personal trainer, I’ve coached various people of both sides of the scale. Some needing to put on weight for health reasons, some needing to lose weight for health reasons. Some needing one of either for self esteem reasons. But there comes a point, if someone from either side becomes so fixated on reaching that magic number on the scale. Then the real ‘personal training’ needs to come into play.

Meaning, I will implement different strategies, that I too have used for myself: Train your mind to firstly be stronger than their body By encouraging a new belief system. By training the mind to know that even if someone isn’t progressing via a number on the scale; that does not mean that aren’t excelling in other areas.

This could be measurements. Bust, waist, hips and thighs, arms. 

Their body mass percentage (BMI). Meaning, even though the scales aren’t changing – they couldn’t be putting on muscle mass through resistance training. Hence, decreasing their body fat percentage but increasing their muscle mass – causing the scales to even rise; because muscle does in fact weigh more than fat. 

Their habits – the invidivifual could be changing bad habits such as: Walking more places than transport (accidental exercise!) Simply being outside more Often. Or creating a habit to visit the gym, Fitness class, or outdoor activity – because they’ve realised how beneficial endorphins from exercising, Really are! Eating healthier, leaner,  nutrient rich foods. Or the right portions of food for their goals – As well as simply eating enough food for the goals. And water: the good ‘ol 8 glasses per day.

Scales certainly aren’t my best friend either. I struggled a little at young age. Where in grade 4 at 10 years old, as part of a mathamatics exercise, I was made to weigh myself each week and make a comparison. I couldn’t understand why I was heavier than some of the boys in my grade. Because I was tall. Always tall. Always taller than everyone until I was about 16 (the boys started to catch up!)

Tall girls, we naturally weigh more. And that’s okay!

Nowadays, You’d think I’d be fixated on the scales on a daily basis, being a professional athlete? Wrong, I actually never weigh myself unless a coach or a form asks me to or out of simple curiosity.  It does not track my performance. Because my athletic performance is based on other areas, like: strength tests, running times and how I am feeling, in myself.

At fourteen I strutted down my first runway as a model. At 6’1” I was the tallest girl there. But during fittings, where I had to self-consciously bear-all to a room of 40 or so women, all onlooking. Who were competing for the other woman’s outfit she was made to try-on. And then be judged by four agency professionals, to whether I would be chosen to walk in that particular outfit.

I noticed here, I was physically different in other areas to women my age. Not negatively; because I knew I had something those other girls didn’t have (a few national Athletics championship titles under my belt). But being an athlete all my life – my shoulders were naturally broader, legs wider, I had baby abs. And My bum was more rounded. Also because I was brought up with a good belief system of taking good care of myself, eating a balanced diet (being Coeliac and lactose intolerant paid a part, too!). And genetics. Never forget your natural body type is probably a gift from your parents.

I Started weight training at sixteen, in our little Family home gym – courtesy of Dad’s life-long passion for health and fitness. This was to encourage my goal of getting stronger and faster as a track and field athlete. A few months went by and I gradually noticed my body made some cool changes. I developed more sculpted shoulders, and ”back gainz” I didn’t think were possible for that tall, skinny girl from the beach. My thighs got thicker, abs more chisled. I developed a little ”Beyonce-Butt!” And honestly, I loved it!

Here, I also developed what would be a life long passion for Olympic Weighlifting. Through functional training here, my skills as an athlete have only excelled! It’s one of the best ways for weight loss endeavours too; as you are using multiple muscle groups all at once, your core is constantly switched on and your whole body is being trained! In lifting,  I have found a new stress release: Just some gangsta rap and the barbell and myself.

Call me narssastic; but My body has become one of my proudest assets. Not because of the way it looks; that’s just a by-product of the hard work. But because of the way it operates to fuel My Passion. It’s broken down on me a few times with injury and illness. But the rest of the time it’s like a bad-ass fine tuned sports car.

 I have transformed myself through persistence and hard work. No by anyone else’s idealistic view of what I should look like. Certainly no man’s view, that ”I can’t possibly have better abs than him, because it’ll make them feel emasculated.” Or the notion that a woman shouldn’t be able to lift more than a man – because that’s not what society’s expectations deem as being ‘okay,’ or ‘beautiful.’

Hell No! I am proud of this body I was creating and am still working on, for my art. For a purpose. In order to make me the best athlete I can possibly be. And be happy and healthy; most importantly in the process.

The myth that women shouldn’t lift heavy because they will become ‘too masculine’ is only perpetuated by women who fear hard work. And by men who fear powerful woman.

This applies to you all; ladies. I will never be a champion Body builder (without performance enhancing mechanisms) because genetically I do not have the right length of muscle, or produce the level of testosterone to create that look. And you won’t too, trust me (unless you have crazy-good genetics!)

Weight training – if done right; with excellent form only improves strength, increases metabolism to aid with weight loss and digestive function, improves muscular endurance or hypertrophy; depending on how you are lifting. As well as your body’s natural function and reduces the risk of illnesses such as arthritis and osteoporosis. Phew!

I can proudly say I am approximately 8kg heavier than that skinny girl on that runway, those years a go. And I’m genuinely Happy with that!

I am the fastest I have ever been. I am lifting the heaviest weights I ever have. I am the healthiest I have felt. I’ve been fortunate to have run for my country; twice over. And I have a gorgeous partner who loves me regardless of what I weigh. I don’t think he even knows, or cares to know.

 But – most importantly – I feel the happiest. 

The number on that scale does not define me.How I perform on that track and that field, encourages me. How my actions make other people feel their best, makes me feel my best. How I feel – mentally, spiritually and health wise. That’s what Defines me.

Personally, I am constantly striving to create my best self. Whatever that is; is always evolving and being worked on. I aim to never settle and vow to continue to work on myself, every single day – as I encourage you all to do.

It’s important in this world – with so Many opinions and expectations on how think, how to look and how to feel, being thrown at us daily. To not just believe what’s being thrown your way. Take the time to do your research and make up your own mind. We must not be complacent with the way the world operates and strive to keep learning, always.

It’s okay to not look the way that society deems to be is aspirational, but to be happy whatever skin you are in!

So, I encourage you – do whatever you can, wherever you are, with whatever you have – to create your idealistic self. Not anyone’s image or expectation of you. Your vision, your dream. Go get it!
And never stop wanting to better yourself or let any number define you.

Can you promote yourself as a female athlete without selling yourself?

It’s no secret that millennials take social media very seriously. But nowadays professional athletes have a duty of care in the way they promote themselves via social media.
Athletes use platforms such as Instagram or Facebook to boost their image and share their stories, making them more attractive to brands, sponsors and viewers; not to mention bringing in extra dollars and credibility into the world of athletics along the way. Some athletes choose to do this with humility while others choose to use their physical appearance to attract an audience, rather than their athletic ability.
At the recent Drug Aware Margaret River Pro, Hawaiian John Florence won a prize of USD$100,000. This came after Sally Fitzgibbons earned her 1st place winnings of USD$60,000 the day before. Both athletes surfed the same break, within the same conditions, at the same time. The discrepancies do not stop there. According to the most current Forbes The World’s Highest-Paid Athletes List the top 39 paid athletes in the world, are ALL men. With Serena Williams being the only female athlete in the top 87 of the list, coming in at #40.
Does this infuriate yourself, like it does the women reading this discovery? This begs the question: Why are female athletes less valued then their male counterparts? In almost every professional sport. Sexualisation, plays a big part.
Some women may feel the pressure because they are not receiving equal pay to men in the same sport. This can result in no longer viewing athletic achievement as a priority and distorts the perception of the female athlete, who then may choose then to use their appearance to gain social media presence and become more influential. This in turn allows them to earn more in endorsements and sponsorships, than relying on their performance in their chosen field.

Comparing social media statistics between the current #1 and 5-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore’s 466K Instagram followers, Alana Blanchard’s impressive 1.8 million followers, and Ellie Jean Coffee’s strong 784k followers. Why does Blanchard and Coffee’s popularity far exceed Gilmore’s? Maybe because the two are notorious for their faces seen in every Rip Curl or Billabong campaign (respectively) as well as their Instagram filled with selfies in glamorous, tropical locations. Yet neither compete on the WSL tour, placing a long way past 100th in the rankings, or are nearly as athletically gifted as Gilmore. A quick scroll through their feeds and you’ll notice a big difference, in comparing the current world champion, who’s feed showcases videos of her recent tubes and training sessions, the others choose to showcase the latest bikinis, captured at a strategic angle.

www.instagram.com/stephaniegilmore

 

www.instagram.com/elliejeancoffey

“Some girls are definitely self-sexualizing, they know what the market is and what gets the best response. In the culture of surfing, sex sells. They’re making a lot of money out of it.” Scott Atheron, Surf Coach, Manly Surf School.

This doesn’t apply to surfing alone. The current fastest women in the world, is Shelly-Anne Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica. After winning an Olympic Games in 2012 and being the current reigning world 100m champion, you think she would be a household name? With only 211k Instagram followers to her name, the world’s fastest female was paid US$60,000 for her world title win in 2015. In comparison to Mr Usain Bolt, undoubtedly the world most successful sprinter and known to almost all people who own a television, around the world. He attains 6.7Million Instagram followers, is number 32 on Forbes Highest-Paid Athletes list and for the same race, at the same championships was paid US -$120,000 for his 2015 World Title, in comparison to Shelly-Ann’s $60K.

This necessity for over exposure, it seems, is growing the gap for women in sport. Tim Wigmore, of NewStatemen Sport, has this to say about the matter. ‘’The roots of this discrepancy lie in the birth of modern sport, 150 years ago. Women’s treatment in sport has always been a manifestation of wider gender inequality and, as sports evolved and professionalised, became self-perpetuating. The huge funding disparity between male and female sport means that women have had fewer opportunities to play sport, have suffered from inadequate coaching and facilities compared with those enjoyed by men, and have been paid meagre sums, even for playing international sport. This has damaged the quality of sport.’’ 

 We are left with the issue , in this social media, millennial world, if women want to cover that gap, they must be perceived, first and foremost, as athletes and not as Instagram models. If sexuality is the main qualifier for popularity in women’s professional sport, then women’s sport will not be seen for what it is; a sport, rather than a glorified modelling industry.

AFL – Still a Man’s Sport?

This interview explores current topics surrounding Australian rules football with the introduction of the Women’s league for the first time this season. The main research found that the AFL has a large pay gap between men and women’s professional AFL players. The ABC provided the statistics that female players are being paid 125 times less than their male counterparts. The Australian also discussed sexism in the sport. Additional research showed that there was a huge difference for New South Wales and Victorian fans, between what matches were available on free-to-air and cable television stations, as well as additional coverage on news stations, both television and radio, and in local newspapers.

Australian Rules football has had a predominately Victorian fan base within Australian society. The introduction of the Women’s league created exposure nation and world-wide in bridging the quality gap between men’s and women’s professional sports. But the question is, is the AFL really doing enough to bridge that gap so women unlike men, must work alongside their professional football career in order to make a living? Recently ABC online provided statistics showing that female players are being paid 125 times less than their male counterparts. It was also made apparent in the AFLW’s annual report that an entire women’s AFL team cost less that an individual average male player.

To gain an insight, UTS Sports Media spoke to an AFL mega fan Clare in Sydney last week. She has this to say on the issue: ‘’ With it being such a massive thing firstly, to the women in the AFL league, I think they’re doing a fantastic job this season, with the introduction of women. However, there’s still a long way to go for women to have the same opportunities as men do.’’

The Women’s league certainly gained great exposure across the shortened eight-week season, the exhibition match, won by 19 points by the Demons, reached 1.1 million viewers who watched at least five minutes across Channel 7, 7mate and Foxtel. (Footywire.com.au statistics).

With so much exposure and fans barracking for their favourite teams, it would make sense that football would be a full-time job for the female athletes, like the men? Think again. The top two players of each team will get about $25,000 for the season, and then $10,000 for high profile players, and $5,000 for everyone else. You read correctly: These elite athletes will earn merely $5,000 for an eight-week season. All are expected to train about nine hours per week, plus pre-season. This seems incomparable with an average male player who earns just over $300,000 (ABC.net). This essentially equates to buying an entire women’s team for the cost of a single male player. It just doesn’t add up.

Clare voiced her concerns on this topic by saying, ‘’As a mother of a daughter, I am very excited by the fact that women’s league has been introduced. And by the time she’s old enough, hopefully those years would have provided enough time for it to have developed and become an equal opportunity. ‘’ The problem seems to lie with broadcasting rights to women’s matches, as that’s where the big money lies. It would be expected to take a few years before the broadcasters would pay rights to show women’s footy matches, according to AFL’s general manager of game and market development, Simon Lethlean.

As long as the women are paying the same game, they deserve the rights to be paid equally.

Below is what the public had to say:

AFLTwitter Poll

AFL Fb Poll

Interview and Slideshow

I decided to interview a very interesting man names Sundesh, from gym I train at following my technical glitch and got a great insight into how he firstly, migrated to Australia in search of asylum during a political coo, in Fiji during the late 1980’s in which he was a radio journalist himself.

Sundesh was captured by military and explained he was hung by the arms for three days straight, in punishment of reporting on what was going on in Fiji. He decided to flee his country, and sought help from a politician in Australia. He was able to secure residency and relocated after three months of correspondence.
Sundesh, went on to explain how he now thinks of Australia as home. And a country who provide him and his family safety, food and a sense of belonging during a time of need.
Sundesh explained he trained at the gym, we were currently at during his relocation to Sydney. But then went on to travel 127 countries in search of a story to write a book upon.

He is now 74 years old, and has found himself back at the same gym he trained at all those years ago. Vince and Roz’s gym is one of Australia’s longest running gyms, having been operating at various locations around Sydney since 1953.
Sundesh explained that having broken his back during his travels in New Zealand, physical therapy was the only thing that has made him as mobile as he is now.
He is happy to be back at his old training ground, having re-joined the gym Just two weeks ago.

This is what he had this to share with us, about his triumph over serious injury.

Your Real Meaning of Christmas

This holiday season, it’s very easy to get caught up in the commercialised side of Christmas, materialism and spending. It’s easy to lose sight of what’s important. I’ve seen so many people get so stressed about who they need big gifts for and how much they’re spending. Rather than simply, why we are buying gifts in the first place.

You can very easily Lose sight of what Christmas really means to you. It might be along the lines of. Family time. Reunions. Giving. Or The CHRIST in Christmas.


I would encourage you, this Christmas time to take a moment to simply think about what Christmas might mean to someone like this little girl. I had the joy of meeting in Cambodia. She may look happy, dressed and in good health. But she is Living in an improvised community. Her parents might not earn more than $AU 70c per day. Which is enough to get by, to put rice on the table. By Christmas would certainly look very different from ours.

I have no doubts, her smile would remain the brightest little grin; I’ve ever seen. Her attitude would still be carefree. She would not know the feeling of seeing wrapping paper and presents under a tree. Or a santa sack on the end of her bed.

Christmas might simply be another day to her. With added silly songs about a fat man in a suit.

These people are strong. Even though they live in destitution; they are happy with their simple way of living. They have enough to live and learn. And they don’t complain or think ‘why me.’ They do their best to provide a future for their families.  And realised they are blessed with what little they have.

I encourage you, and your family to never take your situation for granted. Some people are praying for what you have. And what you have, could very well be enough.

Take care, be grateful and be safe his Christmas and hold your loved ones close.