Hard work and family all part of Lingman's journey

Super W
by Jill Scanlon

Growing up in Queensland the daughter of rugby playing parents, it comes as a surprise that Kiri Lingman had a childhood focused on netball, with no inclination towards running around a rugby field.

Following her two older sisters on to the netball court, she played at high school and into her early university years. 

But when the appeal of netball waned, Lingman was on the lookout for a new challenge and, rugby finally caught her eye.

“I just wanted something more and at that point in time there was a lot about rugby sevens being in the Olympics.” 

Before she was born, Lingman’s mother Shelley had been heavily involved in rugby, in her early days as a player but then as a coach, eventually becoming the first female coach of the Wallaroos.

“I have two older sisters so unfortunately I was the ‘nail in the coffin’ for her coaching career - it’s a bit difficult to manage three kids and still coach at that level.”

Lingman admits her early abilities on the field left a lot to be desired and she wasn’t the only one to think that.

“When I first started playing rugby I was pretty shocking. My parents – God bless them – have always been brutally honest with me, so they could see that and I think they were thinking there wasn’t much going to come of  my rugby career. 

“But once I want to do something, I’m pretty determined to make it happen. I saw rugby and the opportunities it had and where it was going, so I was pretty determined to get to a point where I was in the mix.”

Joining the high profile Sunnybank club in Brisbane had a real impact on her decision to stick with her new sport. It had a strong development program, especially in sevens and competed in both domestic and international tournaments.

The major factor for Lingman though was seeing the extent to which the players all got involved.

“When I first started playing rugby, Sharni Williams and Shannon Parry were still playing for Redlands, the club they came from. They were so amazing and athletic and strong and aggressive and I just wanted to be that kind of player and that kind of athlete.”

Lingman believes she is a XVs player physically but is determined to develop a skillset which opens both options – following in the footsteps of role models like Williams and Parry.

“I feel like the work I’m doing and the athlete I’m trying to be is to get into sevens; working on my speed and my agility but still being able to transfer over into that XVs format. “

Away from the field, Lingman enjoys having a book in hand as her way to wind down, with a particular interest in female sporting biographies from which she says she often finds reassuring messages.

“I love reading them because I love finding little bits and pieces I can relate to,” she said.

“When you get so worked up in sport and you think you’re a head case, I read different bits of their books and I can sit back and say ‘You know what, I’m not completely crazy’. It’s something that everyone goes through. It’s stressful, it’s hard, there are rewards and there is a point to working hard.”

Studying Urban and Environmental Planning straight out of school ended as it often does for the young with a reassessment of direction. So Lingman took a gap year and shifted her focus to rugby. 

The year off coincided with the 2017 World Cup in Ireland and the offer of a contract to play sevens in Japan. 

But injury put paid to that when she tore her hamstring.

“I told myself I’d take a year off, have a gap year and focus on rugby and have a bit of fun with that. But then I got injured so that all fell to pieces.“

In the aftermath of dealing with this turn of events, Lingman was asked to step up for media duties around the World Cup and the Four Nations.

Out of misfortune came the silver lining on the sidelines which led to her seriously considering a career in Media and PR which fitted beautifully with the new pathways being laid out for rugby.

Now studying at Griffith University, Lingman is committed to playing in the Aon Uni Sevens series and hopes to be selected for the next Wallaroos squad.

As for Japan, her heartfelt connection with the country will no doubt offer future opportunities to return and play.

In a confession of childhood obsession, Lingman’s love of Japan comes from a cartoon character and five years of studying the language at school.

“I loved Sailor Moon - I was obsessed with her,” she laughed.

“I’ve been back about three times so I don’t know what it is, I think I was Japanese in a past life or something. I like the culture, I like everything about them.”

After five years in rugby, Kiri Lingman is a young woman who has a bright future on and off the field.

The further opportunity that the Super W series now offers is just the next step on this path for the 23-year-old.

“It’s like the reward for everything,” she said.

“I’ve been so caught up in trying to get back and play well that you don’t really realise the significance and the historical value of being a part of the first Super W and what this actually means for Women’s Rugby - what it means for the younger girls coming through who will hopefully one day get to do this as their career.”