GEORGIA’S ON OUR MIND
Georgia Page plays Sevens Rugby for her College, Lindenwood University in St Charles, Missouri. Her journey just to be playing rugby at all is remarkable. But what happens next is staggering. Courage. Bravery. Sheer determination. She is the sort of teammate you want on your side.
Georgia, you have become an overnight internet sensation after breaking your nose in a game of rugby and playing through the pain. How are you coping with the sudden attention?
Well for me, I just call it playing rugby. But Americans aren’t used to that I don’t think. I guess I just got up and kept playing. I was just doing my job for the team.
It happened pretty early in the game didn’t it?
Yeah. It was literally the first tackle of the game.
Did you immediately know that your nose was broken?
Yeah. I originally thought oh no, my nose is completely on the other side of my face. I’ve broken it. I’m thinking to myself “oh no”. So I touched it really quickly and it was still there and I thought “oh it’s fine.” So I got up thinking it was all good. But it turns out I had a split underneath my eye. A split on top of my nose. And I had a cut on the side of my face as well. So I was bleeding from all different places on my face.
So at that moment there wasn’t any thoughts of calling it quits and getting off the field?
Well I thought that I must have had a little bit of blood on my face but they usually call you off straight away so I was thinking ‘well it mustn’t be that bad’. So I just kept going.
You must have been in pain. What were you feeling at that point?
It felt like somebody had punched me 20 times in the face.
So even in that sort of pain you just kept going. Was it just your competitive streak kicking in that made you tough it out?
I think it was more about the girls on the field. With Sevens Rugby there are obviously only seven of us so if you take one person out of the defensive line you’re pretty much screwed. So I thought to myself I’ve got to get up, get back in the line and work with the girls.
You’re an Australian at an American College. I’ve got no doubt you’ve been telling them all for a while how tough the Aussies are. Was this your moment to prove it?
Definitely. It was. My coach was impressed!
What about the respect from your teammates. How did they react?
They were all just coming up and hugging me after the game and telling me they were proud of me. And as soon as that game finished a few of us just kneeled down and started crying. It was a hard game.
That was the semi-final and you went on to win the game. It’s a pretty big tournament isn’t it?
Yeah, it’s one of the biggest in America.
So you win the semi-final. You qualify for the final. Tell me about what happens next.
Well, that was the semi-final and then we played the final the next day and unfortunately we lost.
The result aside, you played in that with a broken nose?
Yeah. It was hard. Sevens is a killer for endurance and it’s hard when you can’t breathe out of your nose.
That’s a serious effort. You already mentioned how cautious you were in that semi-final of making tackles. But given you had to turn up for another game the next day, what was your mindset?
I was really trying not to think about it. I was really just trying to focus on making my hits and not letting anyone get through. But not only that, I separated my AC joint on the Friday during a game so that was pretty painful as well trying to make hits with my right shoulder. So I was just trying to think about not letting anyone through.
Wow. So you had a busted shoulder. A broken nose. Cuts on your face. And you still turned up and played in the final. That’s pretty gutsy!
Yeah I guess that makes me a little proud that I went through with it. Both injuries, well, I figured they couldn’t get any worse. And we only really had seven starters because a lot of my friends were seriously injured throughout the season. A few of the girls had torn their ACL. My roommate has had so many concussions that she can’t play rugby ever again. So I was just doing it for them.
Nice work. You’ve certainly caught people’s attention. Here are some of the headlines around the world: “Rugby War Goddess.” Have you seen that headline?
Haha. Yes I have seen that one. That’s so funny. Although I am upset about it a little bit. I feel like people have taken what happened and made it more about my looks rather than being tough about it.
So you’re saying that if people saw you walking down the street they wouldn’t pick you as a rugby player?
Yeah I get that a lot. As soon as I tell people I play rugby they’re like “what? Really?” Stuff like that.
So what is it about rugby union that appeals to you?
You have to be good in every physical aspect. You have to have good speed. Good strength. I love the mateship of it as well.
Here’s another headline. “This Woman Is Tougher Than Any of You!” How do you feel about that one?
That’s so funny. Haha. I don’t know. I feel like any rugby player would do it though. I was just playing for my team really.
You didn’t just play on though. You came up with at least one crucial big hit not long after that.
Yeah. I actually couldn’t see. I had one eye shut. So I made that tackle with one eye shut because there was blood all in my eyes. I’ve seen some comments on Facebook about my head being down but I was worried about smashing my nose again!
There is vision of you leaving the field and spitting a lot of blood out. It certainly makes it very clear the duress you were under.
I guess it’s kind of gross looking at it now. But at the time I literally could not breathe and I had so much blood in my mouth that it had to happen.
So you knew for sure that it was blood?
Yeah definitely. I knew I had a bleeding nose and I couldn’t breathe out of my nose. So I was breathing through my mouth. The footage didn’t show this but my teammate looked at me to pass me the ball and she had this shocked look on her face. So I thought “oh damn my face must be messed up.” So I rucked over her and I breathed in and then I breathed out my nose and it looked like someone had just punched me and all this blood splattered everywhere. That’s when I realised it was pretty bad. A couple of seconds after that the referee called a blood sub and I couldn’t breathe so that’s why that spit just had to come out.
With that in mind, given the risks associated with blood, was the right duty of care applied to the situation on the field?
Yes definitely. I wasn’t allowed back on until all the blood was cleaned off me. They even had to scrub a little bit of my jersey and my shorts. It took at least five minutes to get all the blood off me. America is very particular about that which is good.
What is your rugby background Georgia?
Well I’ve only been playing for about a year and a bit now. I played a lot of touch football and OzTag before this.
So how did you come to be playing College rugby union in America?
Well I was at University in Lismore and a girl came up to me one day and said “oh you should come and give rugby sevens a go.” So I did and I played two tournaments. At the second tournament I got picked in the Australian University team. Then there was a guy from America who is one of the men’s coaches at my school who asked my coach if he knew of anyone who might be good enough to go and play some women’s rugby over there. So I ended up with a scholarship to study and play rugby in America.
Wow. All in the space of a year?
Yeah. Isn’t that crazy!
Well your defensive technique certainly looks very good in the footage of those College games. It looks like you’ve picked it up quite quickly?
Well I wasn’t too good with the tackling when I first started! But I’ve got a teammate, Tianna Camous and some videos of her playing and putting some big hits on went quite viral. ESPN Sports were showing it too. Anyway, she was my roommate and she pretty much taught me how to tackle. The very first time she saw me hit someone she nearly died. She said “oh my God Georgia keep your head up!”
So what are you aspiring towards with your rugby?
I would love to get in the Australian Sevens squad. That is my dream.
Have any conversations with talent identification coaches taken place?
When I first got into rugby I went into a talent day for people coming across from other sports and I got picked in a team. We played in a tournament together but because I lived in Lismore I couldn’t always make it to play. But from that the New South Wales Sevens squad has taken a look at me.
Sevens Rugby is part of next year’s Olympics in Rio. I’d imagine everyone playing the game has aspirations to be an Olympian?
I would love to get there by the 2020 Olympics if rugby is still in it then. I’d be about 25 then and that’s when your peak strength and ability starts to hit. So that is a goal.
Has that changed everything you do from a training perspective in the last 12 months? Is it now more about developing rugby specific fitness?
Yeah with our team in America it’s hard training seven days a week. We train every day and on top of the sessions we do with the team I would go to the gym every day as well. And just to try and improve I would also go out on my own, run around, pass the ball to myself pretty much.
Have you had to rewrite your conditioning goals for rugby?
I would love to put on at least another five kilograms of muscle but with sevens its more muscular endurance than size and bulk. In sevens you’ve got to be able to run around for 14 minutes sprinting up and back. It’s worse than touch football. It’s like the worst 14 minutes of your life! It is very tiring.
Women’s rugby is really gaining momentum in America isn’t it?
Yeah it’s huge. It’s crazy. It is growing so much. The money that is being put in the women’s program is making it a big deal.
How much of that do you think has to do with rugby’s inclusion for the Rio Olympics?
A lot. A lot of the girls will talk about how they have been invited to the Olympic Training Centre because they are looking to put girls into sevens rugby. And that’s girls from all sports. They are picking up athletes from all over and if they have any speed or any of the skills they’re looking for they are looking to train them up as rugby players.
In the wash up from your injury, you have made some comments about the lack of equality in the broadcasting of women’s rugby. Despite its growth it sounds like there is still no room for the games to be shown on television?
It’s kind of sad. That game could have been watched. It was meant to be broadcast by NBC Sports but instead they chose to show the interview of one of the losing coaches. I mean you could see us on the field running on but they didn’t actually air it. Strangely, I feel like this thing that has blown up about my broken nose might actually change things and maybe we will see some movement when it comes to women’s rugby.
What are you studying at College?
I’m studying athletic training. I was studying osteopathic medicine in Lismore and when I went over the States I was hoping to go into athletic training to get more exposure to sports based therapies so when I come back to Australia I will have a broader view. Especially when it comes to working with teams.
You’ve just come home for summer break. What did your Mum say when you got off the plane in Sydney?
She had a little laugh at me. Actually last night she was sleeping at the other end of the house and could hear me snoring like crazy because I can’t breathe. So she was very surprised to see the state I was in.
What’s next then? Are you going to need surgery?
I’m going to see the doctor this week but I probably will have to have surgery. All the cartilage in my nose is pretty messed up.
Well best of luck. If it’s any consolation, everyone’s talking about tough you are. Surgery should be a breeze!
Haha. I hope so!