My female school teacher told me to give rugby a go, it was a decision that transformed my life

My female school teacher told me to give rugby a go, it was a decision that transformed my life

If you want to know why today’s launch of Telegraph Women’s Sport is important then I should tell you what my life was like when I was 13-years-old.

I wasn’t a rebellious child but at that age I had clearly reached a cross-roads – shape up or be expelled from school. My problem was having too much energy and prioritising socialising above my studies. Most of my days ended with a dressing down from my head of year or the headmaster and it was increasingly obvious I had run out of chances.

What saved me was a conversation with one of my teachers, Liza Burgess. She arrived at school with a black eye one day and I asked how she had done it. Playing rugby for Wales, she replied. She looked at me and made a suggestion – why don’t you turn this energy into a positive and give the game a go?

At first I thought she was mad. I had grown up in a single-parent family on a football-obsessed council estate in Edmonton. I had been born with a club foot and walked with a limp. I was a girl. I was black. There simply weren’t many people like me who played rugby, or any top-level sport at all.

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