Cheryl Soon: It isn't a job, it's a passion

(IRB.COM) Friday 29 January 2010
By Cheryl Soon
 Cheryl Soon: It isn't a job, it's a passion
Australia's men applaud Cheryl Soon and the Wallaroos after their historic success at RWC Sevens 2009

With Women's Rugby World Cup 2010 now less than seven months away, we introduce a series of weekly columns giving an insight into the preparations of some of the 12 participating teams.

First up we hear from Australia captain Cheryl Soon, who looks back on a remarkable 12 months, which began with the Wallaroos' success at RWC Sevens 2009 in Dubai and ended with the sport's inclusion in the Olympic Games from 2016.

Our success in the first ever women's RWC Sevens competition last March has made a huge difference with a lot more exposure for women's rugby, you could say it has certainly put women's rugby on the map in Australia.

We have shown not only to our country but to the world that we are a very talented bunch of young female rugby players. I know from playing at the World Cup that a lot of the spectators were thoroughly impressed with the skill level of the women and they found that the women's games are actually quite entertaining.

That is quite rewarding to hear, because I know from my team that we work extremely hard on our fitness levels and going through the basics and things like that. If you can fine tune those sorts of things you are definitely going to put on a great performance for the spectators.

Sevens is a spectator sport, it is so entertaining, it's fast, it's exciting and it is great to be a part of.

I was asked recently in an interview what for me had made the biggest difference and had the greater impact, leading Australia to World Cup glory in Dubai or helping to get Rugby Sevens into the Olympic Games. My initial reaction was 'oh gosh, both'.

Absolutely amazing

Firstly I have to credit the International Rugby Board for implementing a women's programme and allowing the women to play at a World Cup with the men.

It gave us a feeling of what it would feel like to be at the Olympics, you know staying in a 'village' with other athletes. It was great to be able to socialise with the other teams and just be in the same place and get that vibe and that buzz off everybody else.

Obviously winning the World Cup was just the most incredible feeling because all that hard work, all the sacrifices we had made leading up to that, whether it be missing work or missing family, getting up at 5.30am to go and do your sessions, then going into work and then coming home and doing sessions after work.

All that hard work finally paid off by winning something of that magnitude, that significance. It was just incredible and given the limited preparation that we had, our collective or team preparation, we were quite limited with the Australian team.

Individually our preparation was phenomenal, the girls are very disciplined and they worked hard and had a really good work ethic. It was just the best feeling, words just can't describe it, it was just absolutely amazing.

VIDEO: History makers - Cheryl's post final reaction

Then for Sevens to be included in the Olympics, it was incredible as well because I was part of that whole journey and that for me was something special.

I was deeply honoured and privileged to be invited onto the IRB panel to represent all female rugby players and all rugby players across the world trying to get Sevens into the Olympics.

I had the most amazing experience. The whole process, including the rehearsals, which were very beneficial, I mean I'd never done anything like this before in my life and I'm sure a lot of people haven't.

It has been truly amazing, playing my part in this piece of history. I have also formed some pretty special friendships with some people that were on the panel, Bernard Lapasset and Mike Miller, Agustin Pichot and Jonah Lomu, Humphrey Kayange and Anastassiya Khamova.

We all still keep in contact and just being up there presenting to the IOC, not only in Lausanne but also in Copenhagen, was quite nerve-wracking and quite daunting to begin with, but because we had rehearsed so many times you felt comfortable with the whole speech and the delivery.

Six days a week

It was just an incredible experience and one that I will never forget and one I will always cherish.

I am very fortunate that rugby has given me some amazing experiences, both on and off the field. I absolutely love rugby and I just couldn't imagine doing anything else.

Rugby though isn't my day job. I'm an export executive and work for a company that are paper traders, so we buy and sell recovered paper and we export it overseas.

Fortunately, getting time off work for rugby is quite easy for me personally because my boss is the major sponsor of our national team, our 15s and Sevens programme. I am very fortunate, even getting time off to actually train.

It is still difficult. I work from 8 to 5, I am up at the gym three days a week doing morning sessions and then going to work and then doing afternoon sessions, pretty much training six days a week and working five and having a Sunday off.

Rugby: A passion

It is hectic, it's really, really busy, especially when work is extremely busy as well. It does take its toll, you do make a lot of sacrifices but at the end of the day you do it because you love it.

When rugby becomes professional for women, and I am guessing it will be for Sevens anyway with the Olympic inclusion, I will be counting my lucky stars!

To be able to train and play rugby and be paid for it is just mind blowing, it is a dream come true. We are amateurs and if I could not worry about work and let my training and playing rugby be my work it would just be the most satisfying thing for me. I am waiting for that day to come and I am hoping it will come soon!

There is talk of it happening before the 2016 Olympics, that there will be players that will be semi-professional. Even semi-professional is a huge thing for us, we don't get paid to do this, we get paid a small allowance.

But we don't do it for the money or the fame, there is nothing for us but the pure fact we love doing this, we love playing rugby and that is why we do it and I think that is why we are so good at it, because we love it.

It isn't a job for us, it's a passion.

In her next column at the beginning of March, Cheryl will reveal the impact their Sevens success has had on the Wallaroos in the 15-a-side game and look ahead to Women's Rugby World Cup 2010 in England.

Next week's columnist will be Non Evans, the Wales full back who will look back at a successful year in 2009, which included a first ever win over England, and ahead to the Women's Six Nations.