Since women came to rugby slightly later than men, we suffer the consequence in a few ways. The biggest and most frustrating of these is the Sunday fixture. Waking up on game day can sometimes therefore mean getting a few pints of water down you first thing. More often than not it also means a couple of paracetamol for the head and some Nurofen* for those niggling injuries to keep them quiet for the rest of the day.
Sometimes if I’ve been on Instagram recently or been to the shops I’ll have porridge/fruit/yoghurt/muesli or something else that tastes like floor for breakfast, but more likely I’ll have beans on toast or a bacon sandwich to try and see me through to the game. This will be consumed whilst watching the WhatsApp group light up with “Did anyone pick up my undershorts after the last game?”, “What’s the address again?”, “I’m sorry my dog’s sister’s pet kitten has had to go to the vets so I’m not going to be able to make it!”, “Is anyone bringing a boyfriend to provide pitch-side childcare/pet-sitting today?”, “Can someone bring blocks/tape/socks/DeepHeat?” etc. A few messages from the Coach who has had a last minute change of heart and has decided to rearrange the back line might also sneak in there too.
Jumping on a train to the club (via Tescos for Lucozade, bananas and another box of Nurofen*) I realise I’ve left my spare pants at home. At the club, reliable stalwart front rowers have sorted the kit, got out the equipment, and filled the water-bottles, whilst still finding time for a last minute cigarette, and another has gone to pick up the minibus. The actual kit and equipment secretary has decided that the most crucial piece of equipment is our valuable number 8 who’s last Snapchat came through at 4am, so has gone to pick her up directly from her house. As people trickle in a vague register is taken on the minibus as we hope we haven’t forgotten someone who we think is making their own way there, someone cranks up the questionable 80s pop and we’re on the way.
Arriving at the opposition club, we are directed into a changing room the size of the cupboard under the stairs at 4 Privet Drive, as the main changing rooms are taken by the under 8s boys (of course). Pre-match prep usually involves hair plaiting (for the backs), someone strapping tampons to their knees as they forgot their lifting blocks (for the forwards), and at least one fight over who has to wear the size 28 shorts.
Despite a strict timeline from the coach, no one is ready when warm up starts and the fullback is already on her third lap of warming up her bloody hamstring by the time everyone else arrives. Someone (me) yells at everyone to get their heads in the game and we start doing some drills that coach has decided will get us focussed.
As we split into backs and forwards someone gets dropped in the line out and no one can catch the ball in the backs, mostly because we’re spending our time watching the opposition backs warm up to see what tricks they’re going to try and pull. Someone has to disappear to see the physio. There’s a collective cheer as the centre shows up having driven from Chichester Uni, often with a colourful story of her weekend and reason for being late. There’s a final drill practicing try line defence, somehow the 5 subs manage to score twice against an entire starting 15 and the coach gives up and sends us all in to get our shirts on.
Nerves are kicking in. There’s always a queue for the toilet. The pack leader is in charge of some kind of shouting in the changing room which apparently accompanies the scrum calls and the backs join in, out of sync, looking confused and excited. We blast out onto the pitch ready to smash it. Hands in, we go up on three: STREATHAM. Our loyal supporters cheer from the sidelines as we kick off and we’re away. Run, tackle, kick, chase, pass, score. You know the drill.
80 minutes later, knackered and filthy, it’s a win or a loss (mostly a win, of course). We huddle together and debrief where it went right or wrong. A quick picture for the match report and in for showers and ciders. Post-game analysis in the bar with the coach of how people played, followed by the unenviable challenge of picking the player of the match. Filling in the post-match team sheet, trying to remember everyone’s surname and who scored what, whilst attempting to inhale a plate of pasta having last eaten about 8 hours ago due to nerves. A quick speech, a boat race, and then back on the minibus home.
Sunday evening is sacred time to have a long bath, and then spend some time with the foam roller watching the premiership highlights, and scribbling down the match report. After all, Monday morning hits you hard when you spend Sunday afternoon smashing into people. But we wouldn’t change it for the world, and we’ll always do it again next week.
*this post is not sponsored by Nurofen