Marlie Packer - a professional rugby player for the Saracens Ladies and England teams, a 2014 World Cup winner, and now a first-time mum - talks about the highs and lows of balancing home-life with a successful rugby career, while battling injuries, depression and grief
Planting the rose
Becoming an England Rugby player all stemmed from Marlie finding her love of the sport at age five. She thought she was just off to watch a rugby game, but ended up taking part in a training session and coming home caked in mud – much to her mum’s amusement.
“I think my mum thought ‘Let’s send her back again; she’s come back tired’. Obviously, I was a child that didn’t like to sit down for too long. And it’s something I just really took to straight away and something that I was really engaged with.”
“I think the sport itself was a bit of rough-and-tumble, that little burst of being able to run through people or tackle people. I think that was the thing that really drove me and I really enjoyed it. And me and different kids from different schools and making new friends was a massive thing. It didn’t matter what size you were, you weren’t judged or anything. It was just about going and having fun.”
Never stop trying
Now, after 74 England Caps, she reflects on her early years and how she subverted expectations by turning negative chants of ‘She’s only a girl’ to spur herself on and work that extra bit harder.
“I wouldn’t say I’m out to prove people wrong, because that’s not how I see it. But I played mixed rugby when I was younger, and one of the parents would be shouting to their kid ‘Tackle her, she’s only a girl’… Later on, that became a joke between my coach and me, as if to say ‘Remember what they used to say?!’”
“So you can have all the talent in the world. But if you don’t work hard with that bit of talent in you, you’re not going to shine as much as someone that works really hard at what they’re trying to do.”
Don’t get stuck in a ruck
She explains how she coped with her father’s passing and how she is now learning to walk before she runs’, both mentally and physically, following an injury.
“I was depressed. But it was because I couldn’t deal with it. It’s actually going head-on with things and actually taking things in, not in my stride. Instead of letting it fester, I would say to people don’t sit on it – let grief in. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve. But for me, it’s making sure that you keep talking to people around you because you have a lot more people that love you and support you than you know.”
“I think it’s how you deal with it. Come back – because one setback doesn’t determine you, or shape you as a person or a player.”
Read more tips from Marlie on finding balance and learn more about her story on Dialogue.
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