Meg Ward - NRL - PlayersVoice
Meg Ward - NRL - PlayersVoice

NRL

600km drive for a game of footy

Home  >  Sports  >  NRL

NRL

600km drive for a game of footy

Share

Swimming, athletics, soccer, cricket, rugby union … and now rugby league.

 

Making my debut for the Maroons, in the first women’s match officially branded as State of Origin, this will be the sixth sport in which I’ve had the honour of representing Queensland.

 

It’s the second at elite senior level, after I played for Queensland Reds Sevens. I’ve kind of done this one backwards: I’ve already played rugby league for Australia before Queensland.

 

I debuted for the Jillaroos three months after I took up the sport. I did not expect that!

 

I started out as a sporty kid who played everything. Poor mum and dad – I played every single sport there was and they drove me all over the countryside, though they loved it as much as I did. I think my dad, Warwick, gave me the sporty genes; he played Oz Tag for Australia when he was younger. My sisters are more girly girls who love doing their hair and make-up.

 

After moving to the Northern Territory for work, as a RAAF firefighter, I was told that while there was a union comp up there, the main league comp was pretty strong. I checked it out – it was really strong. The NT are really pushing rugby league, it’s getting big up there.

 

In May last year, I’d watched a Jillaroos Test and liked what I saw. I went along to a training session with the Northern Sharks shortly after and it kind of just took off.

 

Small problem. Work was in Katherine. The Northern Sharks played in Darwin. Six hours’ round drive, 600km-plus behind the wheel.

 

I would train by myself or with some of the boys from work during the week. On weekends, I’d jump in the car, drive three hours to Darwin, play my game, then drive three hours home again. It was a big drive but it was worth it. When you love doing something, you just get up and do it.

 

Drives like that, you just sing along in the car and it’s over and done with before you know it. There was a lot of Shania Twain on those drives. I bought myself a Holden Colorado when I moved up there, so I was sorted for a decent ride. It took me off-road a few times too, which was a lot of fun!

 

When you get picked for your first #Origin game! #OurWay

A post shared by Women’s Rugby League (@wrugbyleague) on

 

After playing a few Sharks games, I got selected for NT Titans to play in the Affiliated States Championship down in Adelaide during June.

 

I went down there just to run around and have a bit of fun, which I did. I had the best time. I’d missed playing sport, I hadn’t really played much for the past year because I was busy working.

 

I also picked up player of the tournament. Then, I got spotted by Brad Donald, the Jillaroos coach, which was pretty surprising having only just taken up the game. He invited me to a Jillaroos camp in NSW. It all happened in one day. It was a lot to take in but I’m very fortunate.

 

I went away with the PM’s XIII team to Papua New Guinea in September, making my Australian debut. That was a great experience.

 

PNG is insane, you just can’t realise how big rugby league is over there until you go and experience it. People were climbing trees to watch us play if they couldn’t get into the stadium. The crowds around the bus, trying to get into the stadium … insane but so cool.

 

I made my proper Test debut a couple of months later – at the World Cup, which our Jillaroos squad ended up winning. For later this year in the inaugural NRL Women’s Premiership, I’ve signed with the Brisbane Broncos.

 

The speed with which my career has begun is crazy. I’ve still only been playing the game for about a year. I’ve been very fortunate and met some great people along the way.

 

 

 

GROWING UP WITH THE PEARL

I grew up supporting the Broncos, partly because we lived down the road from Steve Renouf and his family, at Samford just outside Brisbane. I went to school with Billy Renouf and all the other kids at Samford Primary.

 

Steve is a great guy, a legend. He sent me a message this Origin week congratulating me on everything, which was really nice.

 

I remember we watched him go to play a game with Easts Tigers, after his Broncos career had ended – but he ended up dislocating his shoulder or elbow!

 

We used to watch old footage of him playing for the Broncos and Queensland. I suppose he was a big part of me getting into league, as was watching the boys play for Samford Stags on Fridays and Saturdays.

 

Small problem. Work was in Katherine. The Northern Sharks played in Darwin. Six hours’ round drive, 600km-plus behind the wheel.

 

We used to have a lot of fun in Samford. The Renoufs had a lot of acres at their place, it was a farm. We were very fortunate to grow up living near them, we used to go there all the time and run amok. 

 

We were a hugely outdoor-oriented family. Dad always had us out kicking a footy or throwing a cricket ball. He always had a game set up for us.

 

We used to play this game where we’d stand at the bottom of a big hill and he’d kick the footy to us. One point if he kicked it straight to us and we caught it, or three points if we picked a side for him to kick it then we ran and caught it. The winner would get lollies, $10, something like that. Me and my two sisters used to run around doing that.

 

I love getting under the high ball – I was a winger for the World Cup and I’ve been playing fullback at club level. Definitely no fear at all of the high ball, thanks to dad!

 

When they organise a chopper for your photo shoot (not really just good timing). Awesome little shoot the other day in preparation of ANZAC Day and the Roosters vs Dragons annual ANZAC Day match tomorrow that we are so fortunate to get to be a part of. ANZAC Day is a day for Australia and New Zealand to stop and reflect on all the courageous defence members past and present, all those who lost their lives fighting for people they didn’t even know and we also remember all the families of those who have served and are serving. • • They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old; Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them. Lest we forget 🌹 • • • Tune in tomorrow on channel 9 at 1600 to watch the men battle it out on the rugby field! • • • #ANZAC #NRL #SameGame #OurWay #womeninleague #love #rugbyleague #anzacround #grateful #defence #wewillrememberthem #lestweforget

A post shared by Meg Ward (@mwardy3) on

 

 

WORK & MOVING HOME

I always wanted to be a firefighter. I applied for the civvies and defence brigades, and the defence force came back first. I went through recruits for basic training and I’ve loved it ever since.

 

A regular day for a RAAF firey is getting into work and servicing the trucks, then going to do some training drills on aircraft, break for lunch, paperwork or equipment services in the afternoon. It’s a lot busier now I’m back based at Amberley, near Ipswich. There’s a lot more aircraft there.

 

Katherine was a very cruisy lifestyle. I was up there with an amazing group of people, which made the move out there much easier. 17 Squadron Tindal was home to the fireys.

 

We’d pack up the cars and go camping for the weekend. We did four days on, four days off, so when the days off came, we’d go off adventuring, finding waterfalls and waterholes everywhere. It was amazing – the kind of adventure that you must have at some point in your life.

 

The defence force has given me a lot of support with time off work to play rugby league, a lot of guys have covered my shifts. I got a message the day before State of Origin wishing me luck, from the entire 23 Squadron Amberley, which was really lovely. Amazing support.

 

Making my debut for the Maroons … this will be the sixth sport in which I’ve had the honour of representing Queensland.

 

I know full well how lucky I am. Working while playing elite rugby league can feel like having two full-time jobs. You wake up. You go to work. You train afterwards. It’s all very non-stop.

 

And it doesn’t always work out. A couple of the girls I played with at the World Cup lost their jobs because of the time they had to commit to the tournament.

 

Hopefully, the NRL women’s premiership can prove to be the first step towards having full-time professional female players, solving the work problem. It’s exciting that it’s heading that way.

 

I moved back to Brisbane with an eye on my future in rugby league, with both the Broncos and Maroons; the QRL let me know they were interested in me playing Origin. Again, the defence force helped me with that move. Things were getting difficult with the travel for my footy commitments, which they understood. Right now, I’m playing for South Logan and loving it.

 

I was definitely ready to come home – I missed my family.

 

Spontaneous morning hikes to the beautiful Edith Falls ❤️ #happyplace

A post shared by Meg Ward (@mwardy3) on

 

I drove out to Katherine from Brisbane when I moved there. When it was time to move home, my mum Karen actually flew into Darwin and did the trip back with me.

 

We smashed it out in 36 hours. It’s a 32-hour drive, doing it straight, a bit over 3000km. It was pretty full-on. 

 

Mum told me she couldn’t do the night driving, so she told me, ‘You drive at night, I’ll do the day’. I was feeling pretty trashed heading into one of the nights, so I said, ‘Let’s pull into this little town, I’ll get some shuteye, then we can take off’.

 

We’d been there for about 20 minutes when Mum woke me up and said, ‘Meg, I feel good – I’ll do some driving for a few hours, let you sleep and then we’ll change over’. She honestly got 30-40 minutes in, then I got a tap on the shoulder and she said, ‘Meg, I can’t do it! I can’t drive anymore!’

 

By then, we were in the middle of nowhere! So I jumped up, grabbed a V and we set off again. But it was fun, I enjoyed it.

 

 

 

HEROES PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE

I was a big Darren Lockyer fan growing up. I loved the way he played, was inspired by the space and time he always seemed to have and how he could create something from nothing. Petero Civoniceva too – we used the call him Seven Cents A Litre – and of course, Steve.

 

On top of our coach, Jason Hetherington, we’ve been lucky to have two iconic Maroons players in camp with us and they’ll also be there for our Origin game: Allan Langer and Trevor Gillmeister.

 

Alfie is full of beans, always, especially when it comes to Queensland camps. He’s a great guy. I’m really happy he’s come in with our squad to be part of it. Hopefully, he can get us amped up and ready to go come Friday night.

 

He’ll also be doing what we’ve seen him do with the men’s team. In behind the line, running water and messages.

 

He’s got that insight of being able to read a game too, letting us know about things we may not have seen ourselves. He’ll offer a massive advantage for us.

 

Happy Birthday to QLD Maroons Legend @trevorgillmeister 🎉 #QLDER

A post shared by Queensland Maroons (@qldmaroons) on

 

Gilly aka ‘The Axe’ actually put a shot on one of our players – Annette Brander – when he was demonstrating tackling technique! He hit someone again at training the other day and put them on their bum. We all laugh about it. You play to get hit, you love that kind of stuff. All good fun.

 

With the rise in the profile of women’s rugby league, perhaps the next generation of girls can also grow up with female footballers as their heroes, not just men.

 

You can already see it happening. We had a clinic the other day and little girls are coming up to us, telling us how much they look up to us. They tell us they follow us, that they watched us at the World Cup. One of the girls even had a little boy come up to her the other day and say, ‘I want to be a Jillaroo when I’m older’. That’s exciting.

 

It’s great that girls can have female sporting role models to look up to and aspire to emulate. Also, the opportunities that little girls have now in rugby league. They can play the whole way through now, they don’t have to stop at under-12s. They can play right up until the NRL, can dream of being a Bronco, Rooster, Dragon or Warrior.

 

State of Origin is the same for women as for men. You get out there and you hit hard. It will be a tough game.

 

Hopefully afterwards, many more girls will be inspired by women’s rugby league players.

 

 

       

 

More about: | | | | | | |