Ashleigh Hewson and Grace Hamilton are taking a break from the familiarity of St John’s Oval this month. Instead, their attention is focused on a wider field: the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup held in Ireland. Hewson and Hamilton are joining 26 other players to represent Australia in the women’s national rugby team, the Wallaroos. When not competing at an international level, these semi-professionals are seasoned members of Sydney University Women’s Rugby Club (SUWRC).
Hewson, a correctional officer by day, has played for USyd for seven seasons. She has served as captain for the past two years, and was the highest point scorer this season in the Jack Scott Cup, a premiership competition for Sydney teams.
“My experiences with [SUWRC] really epitomise why I love this game so much”, Hewson said.
Hamilton is also heavily involved in the club’s culture after joining in 2015. She stepped in as captain in both the semi and final club games last week after Hewson suffered a small injury.
“Sydney University Rugby Club is the reason why I’m here today I’ve been surrounded by so many great players and friends and they have helped me improve over the last three years,” Hamilton said.
“I couldn’t think of a better club to be a part of. This year we have a lot more to do with the men’s club and it’s been really good for us as a women’s club being recognised with them.”
Hamilton began playing rugby union after her preferred sport of netball wasn’t offered on an exchange to the United States. She loved the sport so much that she permanently swapped bibs for mouthguards.
She balances her day job at a school with full-time tertiary studies, on top of the rigorous rugby training and practice required at this level of competition. Being her fifteenth stint with the Wallaroos, Hewson will play either fullback or fly half. After participating in three World Cups, which take place every four years, this will be her last.
“It’s always an honour to play for your country. I cherish getting to sing the national anthem side by side with some of my best mates”, she told Honi.
Hamilton, on the other hand, will play as flanker or number eight. She debuted on the team for Australia last year, and this will be her first World Cup.
“It’s been great being in Ireland, everyone has been so welcoming. We even got a police escort from the airport stopping all traffic for our bus to go through”, she said.
As Hewson and Hamilton play, the Sydney Uni Women’s Rugby Club will no doubt be watching every game.
“As a small club at Sydney Uni, it is always fabulous to have players playing at the highest level of the game. We are so proud to have both Ash and Gracie representing us and Australia”, said secretary of the SUWRC, Emily Chancellor.
“We are very proud of our girls and wish them every success in the World Cup.”
The international competition kicks off on 9 August and will see the Wallaroos play host country Ireland at 7PM Dublin time. They will face France four days later, before competing against Japan on 17 August. Live streaming of the matches is available on the Women’s Rugby World Cup website.