Clough embracing new age of women's rugby

Womens International
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Wallaroos lock Rebecca Clough doesn’t have to look far to see the progress that women’s rugby has made in recent years.

Rugby WA’s Clough has been at the top level of the sport for more than a decade and it wasn’t that long ago that things looked very different.

As a Perth-based player, Clough would receive a training program from coaches based on the east coast and set off on her own to find a gym and a field to ensure she followed the plan to a tee.

Now, the 30-year-old and her Rugby WA teammates have dedicated women’s rugby staff to help them in the recently-established Super W and through their state-based training in the lead-up to Wallaroos camps.

While that might seem like a small addition, Clough said it was a major step when it came to developing professionalism in women’s rugby.

Rebecca Clough in action at Wallaroos training. Photo: Walmsley“I used to train by myself - I used to have to get a program from our strength and conditioning (S&C)  trainers who were based in, say Brisbane or Sydney, and I would have to go and find my own field or gym and do it myself in years gone by.

“The last year or so - we've got dedicated S&C trainers on the ground here in Perth and in all the cities that look after the Wallaroos.

“The attention to detail that the staff now show us, that for me is the biggest improvement or benefit to my game and to the girls' game on a whole.”

The Wallaroos’ program has expanded exponentially in the past three years and there are plans to further that in coming years.

There are talks of a Four Nations competition being held outside of World Cup years that could involve Australia, New Zealand, the USA and Canada - a tournament that would seriously boost their schedule.

Clough has been in the Wallaroos fold when the only Tests played were during World Cup years so the prospect of playing a minimum of three internationals annually is as enticing as any.

Rebecca Clough the Western Force had a comfortable win in Canberra. Photo: Walmsley“The thought of playing more Test matches than ever, it brings this excitement in the year that makes me and other players keep wanting to play,” she says.

“I want to try and play as long as I can and I guess the allure of more Test matches is enough to make me want to keep playing and it's really an exciting time in women’s rugby.”

Australia’s progress is part of a worldwide move to recognise the importance of women’s rugby, something of which Clough has been at the forefront.

She has seen the potential of women’s rugby firsthand after a stint with English club Worcester, playing with and against a host of England internationals.

The second rower was also invited to London earlier this year to feature in a World Rugby campaign to promote women’s rugby, titled “Try and Stop Me”. 

Women from around the world were involved in the campaign, which was launched with a series of videos showcasing female players and volunteers involved in rugby.

Clough relished the chance to be a part of the process.

“We were made to feel like rock stars for a few days and then see it all come out in the media, it was very cool,” she said.

“It was very special to be a part of and women's rugby is only going to grow from here and I’m very excited to be a part of it.”

There is one more moment that Clough might just treasure above many others in her career as the Wallaroos prepare to play at Optus Stadium.

Ever since Saturday’s Bledisloe double header was slated to be played in Perth, Clough has kept her distance from Optus Stadium, in a somewhat superstitious Richie McCaw-esque move.

McCaw famously refused to touch the William Webb Ellis Cup until New Zealand won it in 2011 and Clough wants her first moments at Optus Stadium to be as a player, not a spectator.

“I've had many a chance to go but I've declined all the previous games like the State of origin and lots of AFL games because I knew this was in the pipeline and it's been my goal to make this Test match,” she said.

“I kind of wanted to make it even more special, so the first time being there, I’m playing on Optus Stadium, I think it's going to be surreal.”

The Wallabies take on New Zealand at Optus Stadium, Perth, on Saturday August 10, kicking off at 5;45pm local, 7;45pm AEST, with the Wallaroos-Black Ferns kicking off at 3pm local, 5pm AEST. The Wallabies are LIVE on Network Ten, FOX SPORTS, Kayo Sports and RADIO while the Wallaroos will be shown on FOX SPORTS, Kayo Sports and via RADIO.