When my friend told me that she’d signed us up for women’s rugby I could have tackled her to the ground. That is if I’d have known how. The closest I have got to playing rugby is fighting my way to quilted leather jacket during the Boxing Day sale at Topshop.
My experience in rugby: zero. My knowledge in rugby: minus zero. Actually, I tell a lie, I know that rugby players have those awful cauliflower ears and I’m quite certain that I don’t want my lugholes to resemble lumpy brains, thank you very much.
“Come on, it will be a laugh,” she said. Oh yes, being charged at by a herd of competitive butch women, hilarious I thought. I finally agreed to go to training on the condition that my ears would not resemble a brain-like vegetable by the end of the session, although the bribe of a couple of cocktails on our next night out might have helped to change my mind.
I’m not a girly-girl by any stretch of the imagination. I love a good burp and fart as much as the next bloke but I am by no means a rugby player either. At 8 and a bit stone and only just on the right side of five foot, I’d have absolutely no chance of survival if some rhino-esque beefcake made a beeline for me.
My pessimism diminished slightly when we met the rest of the members outside of the SU and I realised that me and my friend were not a couple of Chihuahua’s amongst a pack of Rottweiler’s. I gave myself a mental slap on the wrist for stereotyping and warned myself not to turn into my mother (she presumes everyone who wears joggers is a knife-carrying chav). After chatting to the other girls, I was relieved to find out that most of them had never played before either, although in their shorts and rugby boots they looked almost professional compared to myself, well, who resembled a tramp in holey tracksuit bottoms and eight year old trainers with the sole hanging off. Note to self: you could have at least tried to look convincing, Em.
When we arrived at the fields the founder of our society introduced us to our coach, Chris, who we were told had previously played rugby union at a national level and now currently coaches Huddersfield’s first team full time. Oh God, he’s an actual proper coach, were my first thoughts; my head suddenly filled with images of him screaming in our faces to ‘get some nuts’ as we feebly slid around in the mud attempting to do press ups. I was wrong again (thankfully). Chris was lovely and actually seemed genuinely impressed with the group at the end up the session.
We played some games to warm up, stuck in the mud was my favourite playtime game in primary school so I happily ran around like a lunatic tagging people and sliding on my knees to free those who were stuck. Next we were shown how to tackle, starting on our knees at first to reduce impact (there weren’t any 15 stone women hurtling towards me at cannon ball speed as I’d originally expected): shoulder to the opponent’s belly button, cheek to their bum cheek and then squeeze their thighs AKA the ‘ring of steel’ until they fall over. There is something strangely liberating about wrestling someone to the floor, and the fact that it was muddy made it even more satisfying. What wasn’t satisfying, however, was having my acrylic nail ripped off as me and my opponent got a little bit too giddy practising our tackling- the pain was unbearable (and I’m sure any girl who has experienced this will agree), I Imagine it’s the female equivalent of being kicked in the testicles. Still, I should really count myself lucky that my ears remained unscathed.
By the end of the session we were actually playing rugby. I am in no position to make comment on the standard, but everyone was getting involved and a fair few tries were scored. I actually think I’m going to really enjoy rugby. And I even got a free gum shield, and you can’t get that from Topshop…