Remorse, reform and renewal: Why Red Liz Patu won't be defined by mistake

Super W
by Emma Greenwood

Liz Patu has opened up about her great remorse at the act that saw her banned for almost the entire Super W season last year and how she hopes biting an opponent won't define her career.

Patu admits there have been nerves heading into Saturday's clash against RugbyWA.

The game is the Reds' first of the Super W season in 2020 but for Patu, it's the first since she earnt a six-week suspension in the corresponding fixture last year for biting WA opponent Rebecca Clough.

The former Wallaroos captain was roundly criticised for the act, deemed one of the worst in sport.

Patu expressed her severe remorse for the act via a statement after pleading guilty at a hearing last year but has not spoken publicly before about the incident.

In a candid interview with RUGBY.com.au, Patu revealed she had considered quitting the sport but decided to play on in a bid to prove what happened last March was a mistake that she has learnt and grown from.

"Especially at the back end of it I had to stop and reflect on what I wanted in life and rugby has been everything to me," said Patu, who started playing a game her father, cousins and uncles had enjoyed almost a decade ago.

"(Not playing again) was definitely part of my thinking.

"But I want to be that person on and off the field, I want to be an inspiration to the girls and to me, that's about getting back into the game and pretty much showing and proving to everyone that it was a mistake that happened and I've moved forward."

Patu has moved forward, playing Tests for the Wallaroos against Japan and New Zealand last year as part of a team that included Clough, a longtime friend with whom she quickly made amends.

But she admits she thinks about the incident often, especially as the Reds prepare to kick off their super W season.

"It's something that I do look back at all the time, especially coming into Super W this year," she said.

"It was a mistake that was made. I've apologised to Rebecca Clough and we're still good friends.

"Heading into Wallaroos it was me just trying to be a better person. It was a mistake I made, I owned up to it, it happened.

"It was definitely hard. Mentally I had to get back into it and I wasn't sure if I wasn't sure if I was going to … but that was my way of proving that everyone makes mistakes, that happened and to me and I wouldn't be anywhere without rugby."

Patu will start in the front row in the Reds' clash against RugbyWA in Perth on Saturday and knows the Reds will face a desperate local outfit after WA's loss to the Brumbies last week.

"From what I've seen they've improved. They've got a lot of new girls but I guess we won't know until we face them but they'll definitely be coming out firing, especially after that loss to the Brumbies," she said.

After their own trial loss to Fijiana last week, the Reds will be ready.

"It was a wake-up call for us but we've got the talent, we've got the skills, it's whether we've got the heart, and I know our girls do have the heart to go forward."

Patu is ready to play her part. Sitting on the sidelines last season was difficult but the prop believes watching the game from a different perspective has helped make her a better player.

And she's ready to return with the support of her teammates and the work she has done to return to the domestic game.

"Actually, I'm in a good mental place going into the WA game," she said.

"Especially having the support of the girls behind me, I play the sport and I do it for my family and friends and the girls coming through as well."

And for Patu, that's the way forward.

While she played the Wallaroos' Tests, Patu's journey back started at Wests last year, where she began coaching juniors, giving back to the sport at the same time she was receiving support from her rugby "family".

At the request of Wests junior coach Felicity Bennetts - also the Reds manager - Patu started coaching the Bulldogs girls and rediscovered the love of the game and a crucial support network.

"When I wasn't playing it was a good way (to stay involved). Felicity and I had a chat and Felicity has had a big part to do with my rugby career," Patu said.

"It was a way to get me back into giving back to everyone and showing everyone (what happened on the field last year) was just a mistake.

"She pushed me into helping with the junior girls and so I really enjoy it, just the smiles on their faces being on the field.

"The support I had from the girls here in Queensland and also my club Wests has been a big support.

"It was part of the reason I went back to club rugby and started getting back into everything. Wests is family, so for me, I can always lean on my family to pick me up when tough times come."

The Reds take on RugbyWA in Perth on Saturday, February 22, kicking off at 7pm AEDT (4pm local), with the match broadcast LIVE on RUGBY.com.au.