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How family, 5am training sessions & a canteen influenced Madison Ashby’s career

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

In a team full of world-class talent, Madison Ashby might just hold the key for Australia ahead of the Toulouse Sevens and an Olympic campaign.

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This season hasn’t gone to plan for the Australian Women’s Sevens side, and Ashby didn’t shy away from that in a recent interview with RugbyPass.

Australia started their World Series title defence with a Cup final victory over rivals New Zealand in Dubai, but the Black Ferns have dominated the circuit since then.

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Going into the final event of their season, Ashby said this weekend’s event in Toulouse was an opportunity for “redemption” – and the vice-captain will certainly play a key role.

At just 22 years of age, Ashby has proven herself to be one of the best players on the Sevens World Series circuit.

Every time she dons the coveted gold jersey, Ashby plays with skill, maturity and leadership well beyond her years – and there’s a reason for that.

Ashby has been training for this her whole life.

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Growing up, Ashby’s dad would wake her up at 5am to train.

Looking back at her youth, Ashby said was “one of those kids” who would say that they “have a strict dad.” But now, the 22-year-old described her father as “one of my biggest inspirations.”

“If I could describe my family I would just say they’re like my ‘why’. So when I play they’re one of my biggest reasons on what influenced me to strive to even be better at my game,” Ashby told RugbyPass.

“They always tell me, ‘When you play you’ve got to enjoy it and think this is what you really want to do.’

“My dad, he’s been one of my biggest inspirations since I was little.

“When I started to make Australian teams, my dad would wake me up at 5am every morning because he would have to go to work or I had to go to school, and he would take me down to our local park and would make me run with him just to get fit.

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“He would always say, ‘You’re never sevens fit’… he helped me, especially with little skills.

“He didn’t want me to go about my life not really doing anything, and I think he really wanted me to make a career out of it.

“Because I’m good at it, he was like to me, ‘I don’t want you to be a waste of talent… I grew up with a lot of people that were amazing at what they do but they just got in with the wrong crowd.’

“I grew up with Faith (Nathan) and Sariah (Paki), so if I went anywhere I was with Faith and Sariah, I did everything with them.

“I definitely was one of those kids where I was like, ‘I have a strict dad, he won’t let me do anything.’ But looking back at it now, I’m very grateful.

“Yes I sacrificed that then but going to a party on a Saturday night to winning the gold medal at the World Cup and then going out with my team afterwards, I would rather than so much more.

“Working towards deserving to do that stuff, and I think that sacrifice is what got me to where I am now.

“At the time it was a lot of pressure, especially as a teenage girl, sometimes you’re like, ‘I wish my mum and dad were a normal parent.’

“Any great athlete, they have a bit of a psycho parent.”

After years of sacrifice, unwavering commitment and resilience in the pursuit of her dream, it all paid off – but let’s go further back; her rugby journey began at a canteen.

When Ashby was six-years-old, she used to ask her dad for money at her brothers games. Eventually, he decided to “shut me up” by signing her up for the sport.

Growing up playing league with boys, Ashy switched over to rugby union when she was about 12.

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Then, a year later, the future Commonwealth Games gold medalist was playing in an open women’s competition.

That same year, as reported by The Daily Telegraph, Ashby made national headlines when her coach and parents attempted to convince Rugby Australia to let the rising star go to the Rio Games.

But unfortunately for Ashby, she was too young – eventually, she realised that childhood “dream” at the postponed Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

“It was like a big thing,” she added.

“I was 13 playing in an open women’s comp and my mum and dad got in trouble for letting me play because you’re not allowed.

“They knew I wasn’t ready, I was so young. Being here now, I’m 22, and we’re about to (go to) the Olympics.

“The amount of physical told it takes on your body to be able to do it, looking back then, when I was 13 that would’ve been an amazing dream and it was a dream.

“To already have played at an Olympics and now training for another one, to my younger self I would have been like, ‘Be patient, be patient.’”

Ashby was patient, and again, is now one of the best players on the Sevens World Series circuit.

With an elite playmaking ability, as well as some fast feet and electric pace, the 22-year-old will play a key role in the success of the Australian Women’s Sevens team for years to come.

Next up, Toulouse.

Before they go on holiday and enter the off-season, the Women’s World Series has one more stop on the 2022/23 circuit.

“Gotta get through the pool games first.

“Always quarter-finals, I say are our hardest games of the tournament because they’re do or die games.

“Just got to get through those games but definitely redemption for us. We want to leave this series with a bang so we can enjoy our break and then get ready for Olympic season.”

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christopher 12 minutes ago
‘In our eyes…’: Where the All Blacks plan to play world-class Ardie Savea

Lot of people especially blues fans not happy Hoskins missed out. He was outstanding during Super Rugby. Try scoring, tackle busting, skills, strong Lineout option offensively and defensively, strong Lineout and maul defence. The guys a top player, but I think it’s clearly boiled down to not enough or certainly not a high enough work rate when things are going against his team, if you look at the Blues loss at the Crusaders he went missing pretty much, did very little.he had one of the poorest tackle ratios and tackle completion of the Blues back row, not saying his statistics weren’t decent but he definetly missed the most tackles. I remember a couple of seasons back when Jase Ryan went into the All Blacks, I’m sure he made a little comment that Hoskins had to start grafting harder on the other side of the ball, or certainly doing it more regularly because he’s capable of a big turnover or two as we’ve seen this season. He reminds me a bit of what Steve Hansen said about Akira Ioane in 2018/2019. When you watch the Cheifs, Sititi is visible regardless of whether they are on top of a team or even under the cosh. Works his ass off both sides but also has a offensive game similar to what Hoskins brings. I think Razor and his team with their selections are setting the stall out straight away. 2020, 2021 and the first part of 2022 untill Jase Ryan went in, saw the ABs dominated up front, through lacklustre coaching, poor discipline, loyalty in repetitively picking players completely out of Form like Nepo Laulala and Angus Ta’avao etc Laulala at times was an empty jersey for the ABs. Razor and Jase Ryan I think are saying we’re building a front 5 that’s going to meet Ireland, France, England and even the Boks head on, and make them battle for every inch. Ardie got world player of the year in the 8 Jersey, get him behind a pack with more grunt and bigger more athletic but still physical bodies, he’ll shine under Razor in that Position. Every other player picked has been picked on the fact they’ll graft when faced with adversity, back to their feet tackle and repeat repeat. Heard Jase Ryan talk about that a few times when he went in to the ABs . Clear rucks all day and win turnovers when needed. I do feel for Sotutu but Young Sititi no less deserving.

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