After taking out the 2018 Player of the Year award for the Wallaroos, Rugby Union star Emily Chancellor has officially transitioned from rising rookie to bonafide talent. The flanker has shown her impressive versatility, excelling in both rugby (winning the Jack Scott Cup with Sydney University and debuting for our national team) and Sevens (co-captaining Macquarie University in the Aon University Sevens Series in 2017 and 2018).

We chat to the Harvey Norman Next Gen ambassador about her love for the game and her best advice for young players. 

How did come to start playing rugby?

My family is a big rugby watching family, I’ve always gone and watched Waratahs games and used to go and watch the club rugby at Sydney Uni with my dad, but never really thought that it was something I could even play. It’s not like I hadn’t played because I didn’t want, it was more like I didn’t even think it was something I could’ve done. Then when we got the email to say come and try it, my best friend at the time from netball, we were watching a netball game and we were both at uni a we just got this email and we were just like wouldn’t it be so cool to learn just how to play. Just to know you could tackle someone and all that.  We did it and loved it. 

What do you love most about the sport?

Well you know it was one of the few things that I’ve done where you’re physically exhausted from like running, then you’ve got sore muscles everywhere from contact but it’s a team sport and it’s social and it’s just an overall satisfaction. So I really enjoyed that about rugby and I guess it’s kind of satisfying that you can tackle someone. Like I’m not an aggressive person, I would never come across as someone who loves contact I suppose, but when you play it it’s so much fun to tackle and to be tackled and just roll around in the mud.

You made your Wallaroos debut this year, how did you feel when you got the call up?

I mean just to be in a squad this year, for me, was quite unexpected. I’ve been in the squad for the last two to three years, but never sort of made it into the final 23 or 25 that were looked at to play the test match or go to the World Cup. Then at end of last year I broke my foot quite badly playing rugby and didn’t think I would even be looked at because there was a new coach and a new team. But I rehabbed really hard and worked my arse off to get back as fit as I could be, then got named it the squad and I thought ‘that’s nice because they’ve named 40 people and it’s nice to be acknowledged’. Then I got called into the camp for training for these test matches and thought ‘oh well here we go, a nice reward for my hard work’. But I didn’t expect that I was going to be in the 23 at that stage and then when they announced the teams for the week before I was like ‘wow, this is actually happening’. It was extremely humbling but I guess it’s never expected there are so many good people out there playing so you just have to keep working at it and enjoy the process rather than waiting for it. But it was extremely exciting to find out.

Can you explain the difference between 7s and 15s when it comes to playing style?

I guess it’s tactical, in a 7s game you play for seven minute halves and it doesn’t sounds like much but you’re beyond exhausted at the end of the 14 minute game. With 15s it’s an 80 minute game and there is a lot more time for the structure, for set piece, for a slower slog. 

What does your training regime look like?

Mainly we do like two on-field club sessions and then two gym sessions with my club as well, and then we do two sessions with the Wallaroos at night so that’s four night time sessions and another gym session at night with the Wallaroos. 

And how do you balance that with full time work?

Yeah I’m lucky enough to be working for Sydney Uni Sports & Fitness so they are understanding of sport, you know I think I could be really difficult to work in an industry where sports is an understood sort of passion.

A good routine, I’ve got a great boss who is flexible with my hours so it’s often like okay well on Wednesdays for the next six weeks is it okay if I like at 4:45pm so that I can make training at 5:30pm and i’ll make up my 15 minutes in the morning, or on my lunch break. But you know having a work place that supports you makes such a difference. Look with anything you do you must have the discipline and the time management to pull it all together.

Do you have any pre-game rituals?

I’m pretty keen not to have pre-game rituals because I don’t like the thought of being stressed about something that didn’t happen. So I don’t have too many pre-game rituals. Like I have my nails done before I have an important game, and that’s about it really. And my hair straightened. 

How do you deal with pressure and nerves before a game?

It depends on the game. Before playing for the Wallaroos game I was incredibly nervous, but I think I managed to use my nerves positively by the end of it. I think, you know, you can’t be not nervous when you gr play a game of rugby because it physical. If you don’t go in ready to play you’ll most likely come out injured but you don’t want to be too nervous because you don’t want to put yourself off.

Do you have any mantras that you like to remind yourself of?

No, not really, but I’m a big one for the process. Obviously playing for Australia is the goal but as I said to a couple of younger girls when I’ve talked to them about rugby pathways, you can’t do something like saying I want to play for Australia or I want to win a gold medal at the Olympics you really have to enjoy the sport and enjoy the training, because if you don’t enjoy that, you’re wasting your time. Life will be so hard, to train and play, thinking that all you’re doing is getting to the top. You know, anything could happen you could have a massive injury then what, you count your whole sporting life as unsuccessful because you didn’t make it where you said you were gonna to go? You’ve got to love the process. You’ve got to love the work it takes to get somewhere.

Emily was shot for the most recent Harvey Norman Next Gen campaign with Women’s Health. Discover what the Women’s Health initiative WinS is and how you can get involved here.