This weekend was my birthday and it was a weekend of getting out of my comfort zone. I actually played rugby. I am now of the age where my age doesn’t count, and the years go by and I don’t care. I do like to feel a little bit special on my birthday though, and unfortunately this was a giant fail on all counts. So on Saturday I had a little pity party, had a little word with myself and got on with life. I didn’t go out and drink copious amounts of wine to celebrate because I was in match preparation mode. I carb-loaded, stretched and readied myself for Sunday. I was about to play for Wasps.
For the first time in three years I played for my beloved club. I played for 9 years, a faithful servant. Once a Wasp, Always a Wasp is our motto and I guess this weekend I proved that right. I correct myself, we proved that motto right. With lots of the current players away on holiday and a Cup match to play, the club feel short and called on us Ol’ Girls. So 2 World Cup finalists, an Ex-England International and me ( I garnered a few Welsh caps along the way). We donned our boots, and pulled on the rather tight Wasps shirt for just one more game. This year is the 30th year of Women’s rugby being played at Wasps and H, our scrumhalf stalwart came on at half time to play in her 30th season. As she came on we all clapped, such an achievement. Can you imagine that, playing every single season since she was in her teens. That is pretty legendary in itself. Are you wondering has she still got it? isn’t she over the hill. Nope, her delivery was sharp, she was at every breakdown bossing us and the all to our outside half was sweet. Our 10 with 44 caps under her belt had to catch the mud-ball like a fullback on a high ball in a bread basket, at one point being tackled to the ground as she released the ball to kick it and the ball just fell dead in the mud beside her. Kicking duties at kick offs and conversions passed on to the younger generation, but still giving us great lineout ball in the corners for a couple of catch and drive tries.
It’s like a drug. It’s addictive. There I was amongst all of the banter of the changing beforehand, everyone laughing with excited nerves. A collective goal, all wanting the exact same thing. It was electric, girls kept on coming up to me, shaking my hand, telling me their names. These young guns, I only knew a third of the team by name beforehand. On the pitch they were so talented, our tradition of Army girls playing for us has gone from strength to strength. I was worried I was going to let them down. What if I couldn’t tackle anymore? What if I gave away too many penalties (always a worry), what if I wasn’t fit enough to keep up with the game? For the first time in years I was nervous enough about something to be physically sick on the sideline.
The weather was horrendous and it got gradually worse. The pitch became this comical mud-sliding, glue-like substance. The back three schlepping through toffee. Towards the end all you could see of my face was my blue eyes. Nobody could distinguish one team’s shirt from another. Our centre made a huge belly flop in the mud and we all laughed, our second row slid for 3 metres past us all and we just laughed. There were so many comedy moments despite the cold. The camaraderie on the pitch was magic. My jaw was and still is aching from shivering so hard, hypothermia setting in. The game was called short at 60 minutes due to the weather. We won 39-0, I think we could have scored more. I stood in the cold shower wondering what on earth had made me do it. Why would I put myself forward for this. The truth is I miss it. I miss being part of something bigger than yourself and your own goals. I miss being part of a collective. I miss expressing myself at something I was pretty good at.
After the match all of the girls sang Happy Birthday and one had even made me my very own vegan cake. That’s the thing about the rugby community. It makes you feel pretty special. The Wasps family can make you feel pretty special. I don’t miss Saturdays doing nothing in preparation for Sunday, I don’t miss giving up my whole day for rugby. I don’t miss rugby in that kind of weather. I don’t miss those kind of pitches. But. I do miss tackling. I miss supporting players running lines. I miss turning over the ball in contact. I miss the laughs. I miss Wasps. It’s ok, I’m not coming out of retirement, I know my time is over. I love the fact that they have so many young talented players coming through and I know it’s no longer my time. But for one weekend it was so good to get out of my comfort zone, play rugby and feel that real high that only rugby seems to give me. I guess it’s true Once a Wasp, Always a Wasp