I met Sharni Williams in January 2014. She’s my wife’s, brother’s, wife’s, sister’s partner. If that’s confusing we can just call her my “sister in law” for convenience (it makes me sound cooler too so I’m happy with that). It was the dinner for my brother in law’s wedding.
At the dinner there were two main tables, one for the groom’s family, where I was and one for the bride’s family where Sharni was. Throughout the evening between courses people would be instructed to swap tables so everyone could have a chance to meet one another.
I usually don’t mind the small talk at weddings. I find often it revolves around your job and for me I make a living playing and teaching drums. There are plenty of shit things about being a musician but one of the perks is when you meet new people they are usually genuinely interested in what I do and it does make small talk easy. And this was the case when Sharni asked me what I did. We had a short nice conversation where I talked about some of the different groups I play in and where I played in Melbourne.
Then it was my turn to ask Sharni what she did? She smiled and paused. “I play football” she said very modestly. “What sort of football?” I asked, curious for details. “Do you know about rugby union?”. I thought this was a ridiculous question and maybe she was having a go at me for living in Melbourne. So I kind of snapped back “of course I know about Rugby Union.” To which she replied “I play that.” She said this as if this was a satisfactory end to the topic of conversation and we should move on to something new. It’s fair to say this made me even more curious and a little bit flustered. Having proclaimed to know about rugby union I realised I actually knew nothing about women’s rugby union. Was it professional? Was there a domestic competition? Were there regular international competitions and probably the biggest question I was wondering was who is Sharni Williams?
I was stuttering trying to ask all of these questions at once when Sharni’s partner interjected “she’s being too modest”. “Sharni is the Captain of Australia. In 2010 she was awarded Best International Player in women’s rugby”. “Holy shit!” I said out loud getting a funny look from the fancy waiter who matches your wines with your courses. My interesting conversation about being a drummer had just been put in its place alongside being an accountant or an IT guy (Ed note: not that there’s anything wrong with these fine professions).
So I got to bombard Sharni with questions which she seemed very happy to answer. Sharni plays both 15 a side rugby and rugby sevens. They had just beaten New Zealand in Dubai in the sevens which was a huge accomplishment. The ARU was starting to focus their resources on women’s rugby sevens because of its inclusion in the 2016 Olympic Games which was a pretty big goal for Sharni.
This meant they had just started giving out substantial cash incentives for big tournament wins in the rugby sevens. On this point Sharni was being a bit philosophical given they’d just won a major tournament and these incentives were introduced straight after. Sharni is also a qualified mechanic and balanced part-time work with her football career.
So once I’d finished my flurry of questions I returned to my seat and quietly told everyone around me the exciting news that the Captain of the Australian women’s rugby team was sitting over on the next table. It’s a big deal representing your country in any sport I believe. When dinner was over I googled Sharni and read some articles and watched some videos and have since followed the Wallaroos and the women’s rugby sevens team. Sharni is definitely a tough and quality football player. I hope she gets to the Olympics next year and gets the rewards and recognition she deserves as a great Australian athlete.