Ash Hewson’s enviable sporting CV is matched by her passion for the game and her teammates
Ash Hewson may be rugby’s answer to Ellyse Perry – she’s represented her country in rugby, cricket, soccer, touch and athletics – but she’s not getting complacent about this weekend’s Buildcorp National Women’s XVs Championships.
The flyhalf will captain reigning champions, Sydney, and knows her team head into the competition with targets on their back. And with women’s rugby growing in Australia, the gap between the teams at the top and bottom of the ladder is closing.
“Every team will be competitive this year,” she says. “There is no team we’ll be taking lightly.”
“It’s a massive jump from club level to Nationals level. There’s more physicality and you need to be a lot smarter. Every team is out to win, and every team is one to watch.”
Thanks to her decorated sporting career, Ash has a unique perspective on how rugby tournaments such as the National XVs Championships differ from those in other sports.
“Everyone who plays female rugby, they do it for the game, they do it because they love it,” she says.
“Obviously everyone wants to make it into the Wallaroos, but even the people who may not have the skills to get to the next level, they’ll still give 100% just because they love the game.”
This passion fuels a rare camaraderie that in the past has helped Sydney win matches, she says.
“I’ve found that I’ve been part of pretty elite level teams sporting teams basically my whole life, but the camaraderie amongst rugby girls is so much more intense and the teams are more fun to be involved in.”
“I think it’s because of the physicality of it – knowing that you’ll go to ground and your mates will run, even if they’ve got nothing left, to look after you.
“To do that and get up and go again and again – that’s what builds that camaraderie.”
While Ash received her first Wallaroos cap in 2009, only a year after taking up the sport playing for the now-defunct Engadine Lions women’s team, she knows that the National Championships are a vital pathway for up-and-coming players.
“Getting the best female rugby players together to play against each other is really important for the development of the game,” she says.
“Of course everyone will be playing for Wallaroos selection which I think makes every single person step up.”
That said, she knows that a grand final berth is not guaranteed for Sydney despite a suite of former Wallaroos in the squad.
“Rugby’s such a fickle game,” she says. “I mean a bounce of the ball can change everything. If it can happen to the Wallabies, it can happen to us.”The 2016 Buildcorp Women's National XVs Championship will return to Sydney this weekend at St Ignatius College Riverview, over three days from Friday 24 June to Sunday 26 June. Head to ARU.com.au for information