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Growing up is a funny thing. The second we’re born we start a journey that will turn us inside out and upside down. It’s full of happy times, sad times and times when we forget ourselves and who we are. When I was around the age of 5-6 I loved barbie dolls. I loved to dress them up, especially the princess ones with the glittery gowns and shimmering crowns. Every Christmas morning was met with the anticipation of adding a new doll to my collection and for those years, that’s what occupied my busy little mind.
Then I turned nine. Nine is a unique age, you’re coming out of being quite little and start counting down the days until you hit the big 1-0. Nine was the age I began to develop my interest in sport and playing competitive games, I caught the bug for the need to compete and to win.
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My father was an avid fan of rugby and we were Crusaders fans through and through. Hailing from Canterbury, the red and black ran in my blood. I remember watching Richie McCaw and Andy Ellis ripping down the field in pursuit of the all important tries. I remember watching that and thinking that was what I wanted to do. I wanted to play rugby and when little Victoria got an idea in her head she wouldn’t let it go (ask my parents and they’d be happy to confirm).
So that weekend I set off down to my local rugby club to see what was on offer. I met with the coaches and they asked if I would like to start that weekend. At that moment I was terrified but awfully excited. Game day arrived and I slipped on the red and black strip, synonymous to the Canterbury colours, and I felt empowered. Needless to say I was awful. Rugby is a tough game to enter into and I’m sure I created more penalties than I’d like to admit, but still it was exhilarating and I loved it. After that game I attended practices and training’s and I was on my way to becoming a marginally less awful rugby player.
It would be an understatement to say my fellow team members were wary of my arrival. They were all boys. At the age of nine, my stocky frame and t-shirt-and-board-shorts fashion sense meant I could’ve easily passed for a boy too, but my long hair gave the illusion away. For the most part, they were welcoming, although begrudgingly, but welcoming enough. I suppose I was quite proud of the fact I was the only girl in the all boys rugby team and my mother was happy enough to tell anyone who listened, but to be honest, I didn’t really think much of it. Until things began to change.
I was used to the odd hair pull in the scrum and trip up on the field, but the subconscious exclusion and muttering remarks had me develop a feeling I hadn’t really experienced in all my 10 years; self consciousness. I started to become more self aware as well as aware of the fact that I was the odd one out.
I remember my breaking point at practice one frosty winter evening when we were split into two teams for a run through of some plays. We set up our sides and I then heard a quiet “why does she have to be on our team?” from one of the boys. That was my tipping point, I backed off the field muttering something about a bad ankle or pulled muscle and sat there watching the rest of the game play out. At this point I was literally the odd one out. As I sat there I was angry, not necessarily at the kid who said those words but at the whole idea. At the beginning I didn’t think joining a local under 10’s rugby team could be so controversial but apparently, in the interest of those other boys, I was wrong.
I carried on and finished the season and ended up playing for the next 2 years, probably still not improving but learning to enjoy it again nonetheless. I hope my experience can show younger girls out there that you can enjoy whatever you want to enjoy. You can collect the biggest set of barbie dolls or you can spend your weekends trying to read through every book in the library, or, like me, you can spend your time running around chasing after a ball trying to get covered in as much mud as possible.
It’s so important to remember that as individuals we’re all going to have different interests and different passions. Pursuing those regardless of what others may think or what they will say takes a certain amount of courage that each one of us harbours, it depends on whether you choose to realise that courage or not.
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Victoria is an 18 year old from New Zealand, studying law and psychology at university. She has an undying love of all kinds of music and animals, especially her two kittens and crazy dog.