2016. The year that men (and women) all around Australia realised that women could play rugby. Like play rugby really, really ridiculously well. As the Australian women’s rugby team stormed home to take the gold at the 2016 Olympics – a new era of appreciation for women in sport began to take place Down Under.
And amongst the stellar line-up came a new national sporting hero. Charlotte Caslick. Athletic. Determined. Gritty. And bloody good. Charlotte quickly found herself gaining a spot in the media limelight and a strong social media fan base.
But now it’s crunch time again. With nine days to go to the final match of the World Rugby Sevens Series – Australia is sitting in equal second place with Canada, with New Zealand in the lead. While it’s unlikely that the girls will catch the team from the land of the Long White Cloud – it’s going to be a fight to the end. But a fight the Australian team have proven they’re up for.
On the road to the finale, we caught up with Charlotte to discuss what’s been happening since Olympic gold, why the win was a “game changer”, and what’s next on her agenda.
First off, congratulations on everything that you have achieved! What have the last 12 months been like?
They’ve been pretty crazy. Winning the Olympic gold medal changed a lot of things for us. It was what we’ve been planning to do for the last four years, so it was great to see that everything we’ve sacrificed and put on hold for that tournament was worth it.
Did you find that it threw you guys into a spotlight that you hadn’t experienced before?
I think going into Rio as favourites after winning the World Series, we had a little bit of pressure. That was something new that we had to deal with, because usually New Zealand were the ones with all the pressure and we were always the underdog. But the roles changed. Then after Rio, there was so much happening and everyone wanted a piece of us. It was very full-on and we didn’t get a break, but it was definitely worth it. I think it was good getting ourselves out there at that time and trying to grow the game through our performance.
Would you call the win a “game changer”?
Yeah, I think so. I think we took the lead in growing women’s sport in a way. The ARU [Australian Rugby Union] made us professional to win this gold medal and it obviously showed that it paid off. After our success, you could see the AFL women’s league really come alive, and the cricket, and some other female sports that seemed to take note of what the ARU did. It does seem as though they are following suit, so it’s been really beneficial for all women that play sport.
By making it professional, did rugby become your full-time profession?
Yeah, so we train full-time. We travel to six other countries every year. Next year we have the Commonwealth games and the World Cup, so that will be a long season but obviously full of exciting times ahead.
Sounds intense! Can you talk me through what a normal week in your life looks like?
I usually train Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday. We have Thursday and Saturday off where we are lucky enough to get massages or have medicals. Then a normal day would be checking into training around 7:30-8 where we do a lot of physio tests to make sure our bodies are feeling good for the day ahead, and then we go to a team meeting – going over the week or the day, and then we go into a prep to train stage which is stretching, rolling etc. Next we go out to training for 1.5 to 2 hours, sometimes longer if our coach gets ahead of himself – he likes to go over time a lot! Then we come back in, do recovery, have lunch, have physio if needed, and then do a training review of the session. After that, we go into the gym and then we do a specific skill session – so for myself, I do extra kicking, tackling, or lineout throwing practice.
Do you mostly get weekends off?
Weekends off unless we’re playing a tournament, then that will be on the weekend. Or if we’re travelling, that’s usually on the weekends.
When you’re not training, what sort of things can we find you doing?
I love going to the beach. My boyfriend is from the country so sometimes we go down there and spend time on his family’s farm. I like watching TV series – when I get home from training I am quite tired so I don’t really feel like doing anything, I love just sitting on the couch and watching a TV series… just relaxing stuff. I like reading; at the moment I’m going through a reading phase – reading a different book every week.
Do you hang out with your teammates a lot? It seems like you’re a little family!
Yeah definitely, we’re very close. I guess we all moved away from our families. I moved from Queensland along with maybe 10 other girls. We’ve got girls from WA, Victoria, country NSW… a very broad range of places, so I think we’ve made each other our second family and we look after each other, help each other out. We don’t really have any other friends besides each other in Sydney, so we hang out all the time – live together and do everything together!
If you weren’t doing rugby, what kind of career would you look at getting into?
I was originally studying social work at university and then I deferred leading into the Olympics and haven’t gone back. I’m interested in that sort of area, but I want to use my rugby to help kids in rural areas be able to play sport and hopefully get it out there to them – give them something they can enjoy doing with their friends. I think I can learn a lot from them as well.
Five years down the track… what can we expect from you?
Hopefully I’ve won another Olympics gold medal by then! And a Commonwealth Games medal and a World Cup… that would be ideal in rugby. I want to try and get out to the rural communities and start up my own programmes that I can help kids. My boyfriend and I are looking at buying a property in Stanthorpe in Queensland… so we might have a few cows as pets!
Images and interview: @husskiepress