Alicia Quirk is a senior player for the Australian Women’s Sevens team and will be a key player for The Pearls in the Olympics. Having converted from Touch Football in late 2011, the Wagga-Wagga product’s main reason for switching codes to Rugby Sevens was for the Olympics and to chase the gold medal. I chatted to her ahead of the team’s departure for Rio.
Women’s Rugby received a massive boost recently with the announcement of a Domestic Women’s Sevens Tournament from 2017 with the universities. What are your thoughts?
I’m not sure what it will mean for us full-time professionally contracted players, and not sure if we will have to be aligned with the university team, but it is an unreal pathway for girls that don’t currently have access to that level of the game. Anything that the ARU does to boost the profile of Women’s Sevens is great for the sport and great for the country. We’re hoping our success at the Olympics will generate more interest and we will be pioneers for greater involvement in the sport.
Sevens Rugby seems to be popular amongst the girls, but do any of you play fifteens?
A lot of the girls come from touch football, sprinting or basketball backgrounds, so a lot haven’t played fifteens before. Those that do, however, still go back and play some fifteens, but are limited in the time they can do so, given their Sevens commitments. There was the Buildcorp tournament last weekend, and from there players can be identified for the Wallaroos, with the Women’s World Cup being next year.
What does the average week look like for a professional Women’s rugby player?
We have the same time commitments as Super Rugby players, namely, train 4 days a week and a day off on Wednesdays, but normally we’re at training anyway for massage, recovery, analysis, extra skill work, and then we have the weekends free if we don’t have a tournament. Both the Men’s and Women’s programmes became centralised at Narrabeen in 2014.
Have you suspended any work or study while being in the programme?
I did three years full-time of physiotherapy and been doing my last year part-time, and so I should graduate in December. Most of the girls do part-time study and some of them are teachers, radiographers or work in the mines. Some have sacrificed their salaries to train full-time at Narrabeen.
Given the Olympics is going to be a first for all of you. What assistance have you had from the wider Australian Olympic community?
The AOC provided funding for us to go over to Rio in February to observe the village, the main Olympic area and we saw where we’re going to play. We had a lot of Olympic workshops called Aspire sessions where you speak to former Olympians and they act as mentors.
The AIS and the government have also funded some of our salaries to help offset some of our costs of living. We also use the Men’s team to test our speed and agility, and we use some of their footage as they’ve been around the game a lot longer than us.
Given the recent AAMI Park pitch issues, are any of the pitches around the Sevens circuit different to traditional grass?
Some of the pitches on the circuit are hybrid astroturf and are horrendous to play on in terms of grazes, burns and joint issues. It obviously comes down to funding and who has enough money to host the event. The men had a similar experience in Vegas where they were covered in burns!
This article originally appeared on the Australian Rugby Business Network website in 2016.