Black Fern Chelsea Alley has penned an emotional reflection on last week’s historic Super Rugby women’s match, opening up about the physical and mental toll being a semi-professional women’s rugby player has.
The midfielder posted the “reality check” to Instagram, highlighting that while the 39-13 Chiefs win over the Blues on Saturday was an important step forward for women’s rugby, there is still a long way to go.
"I. Am. STRUGGLING," she wrote.
"Over the last 10 years I've been a club, FPC, NZ & now a Super Rugby representative I've become accustomed to this feeling. It's a glimmer of what we train so hard for - to play on a big stage, in a massive game & represent yourself, your family, friends & community.
"There's media exposure, interviews, hype, support, crowds, fans & celebrations ... all of that stuff in the week leading up. It feels amazing to be doing this with your teammates.
"Then from Monday morning that all starts to fade. Reality hits again."
Alley said reality comes in the form of early alarms and trainings, along with having to juggle three jobs which inevitably has led to her almost be burned out.
"It's setting early alarms and getting up at 5.30am to get your training in before you go to work for the day (still sore from the weekend), finding time to prepare meals because you know you'll also be getting home well past dark 4+ nights a week from your various evening team trainings, rushing to a physio appt in your lunch break, squeezing in time to see your partner & family in short bursts where you can so you try not to burn out mentally and add a little bit of balance to your crazy life.
"For me personally this week - it's working THREE jobs because I have bills to pay. It's playing in THREE different teams in a week and being expected to switch on & perform well in all of them. I need to lead by example in Club, FPC & Super Rugby - all of these teams we don't get paid anything AT ALL to play for."
The 28-year-old said the toll was brought on by the fact female rugby players are expected to deliver their best both on and off the field despite a serious lack in resources.
"We get minimum resources. That's normal. We train hard morning & night because we know there is massive pressure & expectation for us to be the best. To be fitter, faster & stronger than any other player in the country & in the world. We do it because we [love] the game. But I'm wondering at what point does the level we've got to become personally unsustainable with the resources we're given?
"Women's rugby has definitely come a long long way.. I am proud to play a small role in its growth over the years … But behind the scenes - I believe there is still a heck of a long way to go."
Alley added the post wasn’t meant to come across as a complaint but she wanted to reflect on her experience – one she feels many women go through currently when trying to make rugby’s biggest stage.
"I fully understand that I've been lucky enough to be chosen to be a semi-professional womens rugby player.. something trailblazers before me worked so hard for! For us to reap some of these rewards and for these mana wāhine I am honestly forever thankful! But I am starting to feel the weight of this crazy, blessed, hectic, HARD yet rewarding life a decade later.
"This is not a complaint. This is just reality. This is why I will keep fighting for us so that future FPC, Super Rugby & Black Ferns stars have an actual sustainable career. We can't settle because if the amazing ladies before us settled we wouldn't be where we are today.
"I am grateful. But in all honesty - I'm also tired of being told to 'just be grateful'. When do we get to stand up & say that we deserve more without being made to feel like we're demanding & unappreciative?"
The post has been flooded with support with players such as Ardie Savea, Tyla Nathan-Wong and Jerome Kaino all sending messages of support.
Earlier this year NZR chief executive Mark Robinson said a full-fledged women’s Super Rugby competition could be up and running as early as next year if their deal with US investor Silver Lake goes though.
"We would like to have a competition like that, be it at a professional or semi-professional level, but that will be contingent on the resources we have available to us," Robinson told media yesterday.
"There are significant opportunities for us to do a range of things in this space, such as women's professional rugby if we have the financial wherewithal and the model to do it.
“There will be restrictions if we don't have that.”
New Zealand’s 26 provincial unions unanimously voted in support of the deal last month but NZR still faces a challenge from the players’ association about the deal.
NZR and NZRPA have re-entered discussions this week to try and reach an agreement about the $387.5 million deal.