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'I am struggling': Heartfelt plea from Black Ferns star shares the strain the Women's game is having after a decade

By Sam Smith
(Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.nz)

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History was made last weekend when the first-ever Super Rugby Women’s clash between the Blues and the Chiefs was played at Eden Park in front of a healthy crowd who turned up to witness the occasion.

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Black Fern Chelsea Alley played in the midfield for the Chiefs, and while she noted that it was a massive win for the players, she shared a heartfelt message on her social media account to highlight the burden that the game has for Women’s players.

The 28-year-old said that the post-match experience after playing Super Rugby hit hard, as reality sunk back in after getting a taste of full-time professional rugby.

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“Last week was a massive win for some of us as Women’s Rugby Players. A historic occasion. One that past & present players have been working towards for many years,” she wrote.

“However.. the reality of the way we live, train & survive has hit me more than usual this week.

“I. Am. STRUGGLING.”

She confessed she is struggling with the load, working three jobs to cover her expenses while training morning and nights to prepare for the highest level of play in the Women’s game.

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After 10 years in the game, she has become “accustomed” to feeling this way, being lifted up for the games and then being brought back to reality during the week trying to juggle all her rugby commitments, family life and jobs to cover the bills.

The “amazing” feeling having the experiences around your teammates fades come Monday morning when the grind of the process sets in.

“Then from Monday morning that all starts to fade. Reality hits again. Here it is..

“It’s setting early alarms and getting up at 5.30am to get your training in before you go to work for the day (still sore from the weekend), finding time to prepare meals because you know you’ll also be getting home well past dark 4+ nights a week from your various evening team trainings, rushing to a physio appointment in your lunch break, squeezing in time to see your partner & family in short bursts where you can so you try not to burn out mentally and add a little bit of balance to your crazy life.

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“For me personally this week – it’s working THREE jobs because I have bills to pay. It’s playing in THREE different teams in a week and being expected to switch on & perform well in all of them.

Alley explained that they don’t get paid anything at all to play for club, province or Super Rugby teams, and that it is “normal” to have minimal resources. Everything they do is for the love of the game.

“I need to lead by example in Club, FPC & Super Rugby – all of these teams we don’t get paid anything AT ALL to play for. We get minimum resources. That’s normal.

“But I’m wondering at what point does the level we’ve got to become personally unsustainable with the resources we’re given?

Alley appreciates that she has been chosen for this role as a semi-professional rugby player, but the burden of the semi-pro game is not something she wants to settle for.

“I fully understand that I’ve been lucky enough to be chosen to be a semi-professional women’s rugby player.. something trailblazers before me worked so hard for! For us to reap some of these rewards and for these mana wahine I am honestly forever thankful!

“But I am starting to feel the weight of this crazy, blessed, hectic, HARD yet rewarding life a decade later. This is not a complaint. This is just reality.

“This is why I will keep fighting for us so that future FPC, Super Rugby & Black Ferns stars have an actual sustainable career. We can’t settle because if the amazing ladies before us settled we wouldn’t be where we are today. I am grateful.

“But in all honesty – I’m also tired of being told to ‘just be grateful’.

“When do we get to stand up & say that we deserve more without being made to feel like we’re demanding & unappreciative?”

Alley’s message was met with an outpouring of support from teammates and other former and current professional players like Israel Dagg, Ofa Tu’ungafasi and Ardie Savea.

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'I am struggling': Heartfelt plea from Black Ferns star shares the strain the Women's game is having after a decade

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