|The New Zealand All Black Sevens - Gold Medal Winners|
At the time my wrist was really playing up and I was having treatment on it. I wasn't sure I'd be able to handle the physicality of working on rugby players, particularly at that level. I asked Matt if I could think about it and get back to him.
Looking back, it makes me chuckle. Who in their right mind says "maybe" to the All Blacks Sevens?
It was an honour being asked. I didn't have to chase this, they found me and asked ME if I could come work for THEM. Of course I had to say yes... and I did.
|At STOMP - really giving it to him in the gluteus maximus|
|On the Set of STOMP|
I know the body. I know how it works. I understand the mechanics and physiology and how to treat injuries. I'm a Neuromuscular Therapist and have been doing it for 18 years. What does it matter if I know nothing about rugby.
I think this was an advantage because I wasn't star struck or nervous about going to work. I had no idea who any of these guys were.
We are set up in a big common area in the hotel where they stay during their training camps. There's three of us in there - Chalky, me and Annette, the other therapist who has been with them for years. It's very relaxed.
I was just thrown into it. I wasn't given the scoop on any of the players - what position they play or what injuries they had. I didn't even know any of their names. They all call each other by nicknames. I was just expected to figure it all out. I guess most people would know who they were - but not this Canadian girl! Gradually I got to know the guys and it didn't take long to feel comfortable (but I still don't know most of their full names). It's a real team environment - I forgot how much I missed it.
Our shift starts in the evening after 7pm and usually finishes around 10:30, sometimes later. The guys hang out watching television, chatting to each other, having late snacks and waiting for their turn on the table with one of us. It's a good vibe. Very relaxed and easy. We have a lot of laughs.
Their coach Gordon Tietjens comes in from time to time if he's not off playing tennis. That man works so hard coaching all day and then he plays tennis for hours in the evening or early morning. He'll usually pop in for a massage when the last guy has finished (hence the late nights). Titch is a real Roger Federer fan. If Federer doesn't do well, he takes it out on the players at training the next day.
|Gordon Tietjens - Coach of the All Black Sevens and hater of cheese|
The reason the All Black Sevens are so successful is because Titch knows how to choose the right players. He looks for guys who have high integrity, who have strong morals and values and who are willing to work hard to achieve their goals. As Titch says, "We are a team, there is no 'I', only 'We'..." He doesn't tolerate ego and he practices what he preaches. He's an amazing role model for his players and you can see and feel the respect they all feel for him.
Because of Gordon Tietjens, the team are a bunch of really cool, down to earth guys. They are fun to work with, easy to talk to and it all helps to make my job pretty awesome.
It all sounds glamorous - massaging hunky rugby guys for a living - but it's bloody hard work! If these guys weren't as awesome as they are, I might have walked away after the first season. I don't have time for big egos or to feel like I'm hired help. Physically it's demanding and hard on my body. I want to be useful as a healer right up into old age so I have to look after myself. When you are acknowledged and appreciated by the people you are "healing", then there is an exchange of energy. If that energy wasn't there, I couldn't do it. You have to get what you give.
|A Sevens Player cooling his muscles after a hard training|
Chalky and Annette are equally laid back and awesome colleagues to work with. Annette and I are the only two women but we are respected, and even feared by the players because of our strength. Neither of us are very big (Annette is only about 5') but we are strong! The other day one of the players asked me if I could go easy on him. I asked if he was feeling fragile. "Like tissue paper." He said.
I didn't need this contract for my CV. After 18 years as a therapist, I've done my hard time working on athletes. I was enjoying my quiet little studio in my garden by the beach. I was trying to stay under the radar, enjoying semi-retirement. But the Sevens found me and I'm grateful they did. It can be lonely in the secret garden. It's nice having the best of both worlds.
So at the moment I'm just working with the team when they are here training between tournaments which suits me. But as things heat up with the 2014 Commonwealth Games approaching, I imagine it could get busier. I'd love to go with them.
|Loving how Sammy is hugging his new shoe in this shot.|
I'm learning more and I realize how little they probably know about the therapist who is working on them. This is a girl who has come a long way from starting her own business in Toronto at the age of 20. I have treated a few celebrities, actors, athletes, entertainers, very successful business people, most of them Canadian and American. But now I have one of the most talked about Rugby teams in my brag book... and they found ME.
The team is off to Dubai tomorrow and then South Africa the following week. Good luck guys! I'll be watching with new respect and admiration... and most of all pride. I can say, I had a hand in your success. That's amazing.