Sport is a big part of the average Pacific persons past time, male or female. Obviously not all of us follow sports with die-hard intensity, but for such a small population of people, it could be fair to say that much of the rest of the worlds knowledge of the Pacific is based in our athletic ability (see: NRL, Super Rugby, NFL, Greg Louganis, The Rock).
I feel that there is a problem with this picture and that is that so much of professional sport is male dominated, and so if people worldwide are getting know us through the sport we can play, they only know the men. Cue the Australian Jillaroos, AKA the Australian Women’s Rugby League team. Not long ago they returned from London as triumphant champions of the 2013 Rugby League Women’s World Cup.
We recently interviewed one of the Jillaroos, Alexandra Sulusi who is of Samoan descent. At 19, Alex has been playing representative sport for what most people would call a decent career. She has represented both Australia and New South Wales in Touch Rugby, Rugby League and Rugby Union. I caught up with Alex when she wasn’t working, training or making an appearance. What was she doing? Babysitting… as a result, my recording of the conversation has a 3 year old nicknamed Dobby running around growling and hitting furniture with a stick, and Alex’s little sister Pou asking if she can have more snakes. Peep the interview and a video excerpt after the jump…
Cousin E: Hello!
Cousin E: Name, age and day job?
Alex: Alexandra Sulusi, 19, and my day job is hospitality
Cousin E: What teams have you represented so far?
Alex: I’ve represented Australia in Rugby League, at the World Cup (2013) and I’ve done a few IRB series with the –
<we hold for a second while I receive a phone call and Alex goes running after Dobby>
Cousin E: …you were saying the teams that you have represented.
Alex: Oh yes, I also represented Australia in Rugby 7s; where I toured to Dubai and Houston.
Cousin E: Nice
Alex: And I just play club for Rugby Union and League here at home.
Cousin E: So you play both of them at the same time?
Alex: Yes, so league I train Monday Wednesdays; and Union I train Tuesday, Thursdays. Games always change; Union’s always Saturdays but League changes.
Cousin E: So they don’t clash?
Alex: Sometimes they do.
Cousin E: If they do clash, which do you prefer?
Alex: During all the World Cup stuff this year, I would choose league, same with [State of] Origin and stuff but now that that’s finished if it clashes I’ll choose Union.
Cousin E: Really?
Alex: Yes. I’m in the Sydney team for the Women’s Rugby Union 15s. The 15s World Cup is next year and that’s the next team I’d like to make.
Cousin E: Really? (vocabulary waning)
Cousin E: YEEAHH! Okay… um, you’ve already named some of the places you’ve been around the world because of your sport. Is there anywhere else you’ve been?
Alex: I’ve been to Fiji, Noosa, Casuarina, just on field camps and all that. And then there was Houston, Dubai, London.
Cousin E: What’s been your best experience so far?
Alex: The World Cup would have to be the best experience so far. Winning and the two weeks over there.
Cousin E: And the man of the match thing? Can you just tell me the story from the first match you played against New Zealand at the World Cup?
Alex: Yes, so we still had to play out our round games, but we knew we were in the final. Our last round game was against NZ. So we played that and I got man of the match, so I got the match ball and after that, I played my way in to the final which was pretty good
Cousin E: And before that were you coming off the bench?
Alex: Yes. The first game against England, I didn’t play and I was pretty gutted. Basically there are 23 of us in the squad and only 18 get picked so 6 of us would miss out. I missed out on the first game against England, I came off the bench for the second game against France and in the third game against New Zealand, I got a start. (Alex went on to start in the final against New Zealand where the Jillaroos won)
Cousin E: Nice. So, how many Pacific Islander girls do you see in the sports you play here and overseas?
Alex: I see a lot of them here, at club and rep level, but they don’t go further to like… Aussie. At the World Cup there were only 3 Islanders in our team, including me. One of the girls and I, we both play in the same club here, then there was a Fijian girl, so just the three of us besides the Kiwi team.
Cousin E: Do you think that there should be more Islander girls in the Australian team?
Alex: Yeah there definitely should be more, the girls have talent they just lack commitment. But talent can only take you so far. If you’re willing to work hard you can go all the way.
Cousin E: Does it feel any different representing Australia but knowing that you’re obviously Samoan?
Alex: Yes it does feel different; I definitely try to represent not just myself but my family and culture. Hopefully I’m not just doing this for my benefit but to be a role model that kids can look up to.
Cousin E: Alright, in regards to your career, you’ve been playing for ages. I remember when you were younger and played touch for NSW and then that sort of parlayed into Rugby Union and League. How much longer do you want to be doing this?
Alex: It’s always going to be a part of me. I obviously want to do it for as long as I can, but later on in the track it’s not going to be as much of a priority. It’s a really big part of my life and I definitely want to play for as long as I can. It also depends on my body as well.
Cousin E: Which brings me to another question; can girls or women, make a living out of playing Rugby Union or League?
Alex: It depends. I guess if you’re financially stable then it’s alright, but most times it’s hard. Some of the girls do work. It’s not really at that stage yet, but definitely it will be soon. With 7s, we get paid every end of financial year and every IRB series. It’s not a lot to compensate for the time we take away from work but we get paid. Later on hopefully it will be full time work. With League we’ve been getting a lot of publicity and a lot of support since winning which has been great.
Cousin E: And do you get paid to make appearances?
Alex: No, we don’t get paid to make appearances its volunteer work, but you know, that doesn’t stop me from doing it.
Cousin E: Of course. And what are your goals for the next 5 years?
Alex: Next 5 years? Hopefully I will make the team for the next Rugby Union World Cup and I’m currently on my pathway to that. Hopefully I’ll also get into the police force –
Cousin E: Oh, that’s cool!
Alex: – and the Olympics for Rugby 7s as well.
Cousin E: Awesome. And what would you say is your inspiration or what inspires you?
Alex: That’s a tricky one…
Cousin E: It could be inspiration, or it could just be goal setting, maybe?
Alex: Yes, it’s just goal setting. I don’t really look up to anyone, I just to set my goals and aspire to achieve them. I just do my own thing, and hopefully I’ll be an inspiration to others.
Cousin E: What advice would you give to other Pacific Islanders who want to get as far as you have, in their chosen sport?
Alex: There’s a quote that I go off, ‘just have a go’, because I know a lot of Islanders get a bit shy. Another one is ‘hard work beats talent all day, if the talent is not willing to work hard’. I may be a skilled player in my game, but I didn’t just get to where I am on my talent, I got there by working hard. Also, be confident, don’t be intimidated. The worst thing that could happen is that you don’t get picked for a team and I’ve been through that as well.
Cousin E: And just for the record, you played for NSW while you were in high school didn’t you?
Alex: Yes, CHS [Combined High Schools]
Cousin E: And did you ever play for Australia while you were in high school?
Alex: No, it wasn’t really that big in high school.
Cousin E: Have you ever played for a Pacific team?
Alex: Yes, Sydney Samoa. We took it out last year but it’s more of a social tournament.
Cousin E: Thanks very much Alex and good luck with all your goals.
Alex: Thank you!