No Longer the 'Token Girl'

Emily Rudge - Ourvoice

Emily Rudge
St. Helens & England Captain

14th Nov 2019

I’ve always been into sport in a big way – athletics, football, netball, rounders…I’ve dabbled in all kinds of sports. But I couldn’t get enough of rugby. I loved it that much as soon as I’d finished one game, I wanted to play another one.

I started playing rugby when I was at primary school. They needed a token girl so they could enter a mixed tag tournament, so I was asked by Mr Farrar if I would like to give it a go and I’ve never looked back since. Andy, my dad, was made up! Him and his dad, Gerry, were both Warrington Wolves season ticket holders and were massive influences on me.

Emily Rudge - Ourvoice
 

They needed a token girl so they could enter a mixed tag tournament, so I was asked by Mr Farrar if I would like to give it a go and I’ve never looked back since.

I started playing for my local team until I became too old to play in a boys team and had to find a girls one. I did – in Rochdale! For the best part of a year, my dad took me on hour-and-a-half-long round trips, until one day, he just said ‘this is ridiculous, let’s start our own team in Warrington’.

Mine and Jodie Cunningham’s dads set up Warrington’s first all-girls team and things just went from there – Saints, England, World Cups. If it wasn’t for my dad putting all the hours in, I don’t think I would have gone on to achieve what I have.

It was the physical part of the game that I liked best. I loved tackling. Mum was scared to death, but I just threw myself into it. We formed a team at high school and went to the Champions Schools finals every year in London. They were incredible real-life experiences at that age.

Emily Rudge - Ourvoice

If it wasn’t for my dad putting all the hours in, I don’t think I would have gone on to achieve what I have.

Jodie is my best friend outside rugby. There’s a big group of us who have stayed friends since school and we meet up to celebrate birthdays and talk about anything but rugby. At school, we were called ‘The Tribe’. Two of The Tribe are on tour at the moment, but it’s still a massive deal for all of us.

I have some really strong women around me – my wife Gemma, my mum, my sister, nan Christine and grandma Hilda. I met Gemma through rugby. She was captain of England when I first started playing, now I am! I looked up to her massively then and still do. Because we’ve had such similar journeys, I think it helps the understanding between us.

Me and Gemma are saving up for a house at the minute and we’d like to have kids before we’re too old. I’d like Gemma to have a baby first. If it happens for me, maybe it will be after 2021. If I’m picked, 2021 will be my fourth World Cup.

Emily Rudge - Ourvoice

I met Gemma through rugby. She was captain of England when I first started playing, now I am!

Me and my mum love a bargain. We’ll hunt them anywhere and everywhere…car boot sales, charity shops. Mum’s always coming home saying ‘look what I got for a pound!’. This coat? £1.50 from a charity shop. It’s still £60 in Top Shop.

My mum is called Sally. She’s someone I look up to massively. She’s beautiful and glamorous, but also tough and hardworking. It’s a side of her not a lot of people see. Our house was just a wreck when we first moved in and she did all of the DIY – under the floorboards and everything. I love that about her.

Me and my sister, Isabelle, get our creative side from my mum. My dad, Andy, is more of an organiser. And even though they both work, they also help me and Isabelle with our events business. They are really proud and supportive of us, and their dining room has been like a work room for the last two Christmases. I don’t know how my mum’s coped.

We started Emabelle Creations after I married Gemma in 2018. We didn’t hire anything; me and Isabelle did all the preparation. It was super-stressful but we loved it. After the wedding, we thought ‘what are we going to do now?’. So we carried on creating events for family and friends – weddings, birthdays, christenings, baby showers, anniversaries. All sorts. It’s really enjoyable and we complement each other really well. Isabelle has a real talent for things like calligraphy and I do the floral decorations and other stuff. We share the same vision and we bounce ideas off each other, so it works well.

The business is my place away from work and away from rugby.

Emily Rudge - Ourvoice

She’s someone I look up to massively. She’s beautiful and glamorous, but also tough and hardworking.

I’ve been a PE teacher since I graduated from Liverpool John Moores University six years ago. I love teaching, although I don’t love all the paperwork.

For me, PE at my high school wasn’t what it could have been. I was one of those girls who was passionate about sport and always wanted to play more sports than the teachers would allow us to. It was really frustrating and it made me determined to become the kind of PE teacher who would do the right thing and give young people as many opportunities as possible.

I did a wide range of sports at university, and I now teach dance, cheerleading, rugby and basketball as extra-curricular clubs. I have a good group of girls who always turn up and we get as many fixtures as possible. Seeing kids improve gives me the most pleasure, watching them learn, grow and develop. We have a lot of good PE teachers at Rainford and we have a lot of success.

I captained the Warrington girls team when I was 16, but haven’t had the opportunity to captain a side much since – until now. I’ve always been very vocal on the pitch and I’m quite experienced in terms of the England set up. Maybe I’m somebody others look up to. I’ll step up when games are tough and try to get others fired up through my own passion.

Emily Rudge - Ourvoice

It was really frustrating and it made me determined to become the kind of PE teacher who would do the right thing and give young people as many opportunities as possible.

I stand up in front of young people every day, trying to enthuse and motivate them. I try to take some of those qualities into my rugby. When I think back to the players I played with in the 2008 World Cup as a 16 year old, people like Lindsay Anfield, they are the players I want to emulate.

Away from school and rugby and Emabelle, I struggle to relax. I like to be doing things all the time. I can’t sit still. I feel guilty if I do. I enjoy having Disney films in the background while I’m working. Mum and Dad took us to Disneyland about five times when I was young, and I love the films. People say I live in a bubble where I just want everyone to be happy, but I try to tune out from sad or traumatic or scary stuff on TV. Why would I want to put myself through that?

I also spoil the dogs to death. We’ve got two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Ruby and Paddy, and they are like mine and Gemma’s kids because we don’t have any yet.

Looking back at the last two years of Women’s Rugby League, it feels like over the next two we are only going to get bigger and better. Success in 2021 would skyrocket the women’s game. Australia and New Zealand are probably on a different level at the moment, but we know what we have to do, and we are working towards competing at that level in 2021.

I want to win the World Cup. And I think we will.

Watch Emily in action for the England Women against Papua New Guinea this Saturday (16th November), live on BBC Red Button, BBC Sport website and the Our League app – sign up for free now.

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