Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

From Ken Chillingworth oval, running out under the Pirates banner, to an international stage, donning the ACT Brumbies jersey, Erika Maslen is making her mark in women’s rugby union. 

The 20-year-old from Tamworth was part of the Brumbies win over Hong Kong China on the weekend’s season opening trial game. 

“I played the second half as hooker and we started really strong.” said Erika. 

“We had a really good phase build up and scored almost immediately into the second half, but it was a tough match.” 

“We played Hong Kong China on Wednesday earlier in the week, but it was a lot more structured with three attacking phases and three defensive phases, and then we would swap teams,” 

“So, we thought we knew the team we were going up against but the team we met on Saturday was a different team to the last game.” 

“They really handed it to us, and yes we came away with the win, however, it was a lot tougher than we expected it to be but was a great hit out for the first one of the year.” 

Now in her second season with the Canberra side, Erika says her game has never been better and building. 

“It’s amazing for me to see the improvements that my game has had since moving down to Canberra,” 

“I certainly feel more confident in myself on the field and my skills and throwing are getting a lot better.” 

Off the field, Erika works just as hard as a full-time apprentice cabinet maker, building two careers at once and setting up a bright future, and living life to the fullest. 

Where it all began 

But this journey didn’t happen overnight.  

Born and bred in Tamworth, Erika never pictured a career outside of country New South Wales, and at one point footy wasn’t even on the radar. 

“Footy definitely wasn’t in the family,” said Erika. 

“I played a lot of netball growing up with my twin sister, and my brother started off with soccer before moving over to rugby and when he went to go and trial for Central North 7’s, mum and dad encouraged me to give rugby a try.” 

“I was trialing for netball reps and never made it, but my sister did every year, so I gave rugby a go and I made the squad and I have played it ever since.” 

“I started playing for Calrossy when I was in school, and then moved to the Pirates when I was old enough to play with the women’s team.”  

With a little bit of luck and a whole lot of skill, Erika began to thrive in Rugby, catching the eye of recruiters and advancing her career down to the nation’s capital. 

“I started off as a tight end prop, and when I was 16, I went to a tournament with NSW Country and my coach told me right before the game they were going to play me at hooker,” said Erika. 

“I had never played hooker before and this was a massive tournament against the ACT, QLD and the Sydney side, and they said I was playing the position and I protested I have never even thrown the ball before, so that was fun, and ever since then I have played hooker.” 

But it was a national’s tournament in Adelaide playing for NSW Country where Erika made her mark. She was recruited to the ACT’s wider squad with no guarantees of making the final cut, but a chance she couldn’t turn down. 

“It was just that one week away at Nationals that put me on the map, and this path.”  

Now she is down in Canberra playing for the Tuggeranong Vikings Union Club and the ACT Brumbies 

“I never thought I would be here,” said Erika. 

“I knew I was good at rugby, but there is that saying big fish in a little pond and then you move somewhere else you become the little fish in a big pond and that’s what it was like.” 

“In Tamworth I stood out for my footy abilities, but you don’t expect to get anywhere.” 

“We are so far away from any major city, and you hear about these girls making these squads, but they are always coming out of the cities so, when you are in Tamworth everything seems so far away, and I didn’t expect the opportunities I have gotten.” 

Inspiration for future women’s rugby players 

When asked what Erika would say to future young women looking to follow their dream of playing footy, she had this to say, 

“Continue to train and play as much as you can and put your name down for every opportunity,” 

“Especially now with the pathways young women are getting, it’s much better, like what the NSW Waratahs are doing with their academy,” 

“It is a lot easier to get recognised from the country towns now so keep trying and keep bettering yourself and the opportunities will come.” 

What next? 

The ACT Brumbies have two more trail matches coming up against the Waratahs and Oceania. 

“Those will both be two hard trial matches, so this was a good one to work out any kinks and we can see what we need to work on.” said Erika. 

Erika will take to the field with the Brumbies Saturday 17th February for their trial match against the Waratahs.