EXCLUSIVE: Jade Konkel Interview

Jade Konkel

Place of Birth: Inverness

Position: Number 8

Senior 15’s Caps: 23 (Debut 2013)

Sevens Caps: 2

Club: Hillhead Jordanhill

Jade Konkel is, at present, the only full-time professional women’s rugby player in Scotland. She signed a deal with the SRU to take her onto a BT Sport academy level three contract in June of this year.

How did you react when you got the call telling you the news?

Funnily enough, it wasn’t a call. I got taken in to the office”

I thought I was in trouble, my manager and physio and everyone was there”

Then they offered me the stage three contract. I know quite a lot of people would say ‘Oh I didn’t expect it’, but I genuinely did not have a clue. I actually tried so hard not to cry”

It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, something I never thought was an option anytime soon”

It’s not a moment I’m going to forget anytime soon”

What does the role involve?

You get invited to a lot of player appearance kind of things. I love doing that stuff, especially as a women’s rugby player you want to get the word out to the younger girls coming through. Other than that it’s just more time to do speed, gym, conditioning, more specialised areas”

I’m in Monday to Friday, then you play on the Sunday. It’s all pretty full on”

Then I get to knuckle down, things like analysis, you can learn how to improve nutritional aspects, all those areas that I wanted to focus on before, now I can”

How do you find it training with the men in the Glasgow academy?

Yeah, it’s good. You can have a laugh with the guys”

Gender is just not an issue. We’ve all got one goal and that’s to wear the Scottish thistle and be the best athlete we can be”

It’s definitely a good environment to be in”.

What drew you to Rugby Union?

I didn’t really play it until I was 17. I dabbled in it, but there wasn’t really very much for girls, especially where I was from”

I grew up watching my parents play, they still play and both of my brothers play. Basketball was my main sport and I got my black belt in a self defence martial art as well”

I always wanted to play, but the opportunities weren’t there. I used to drive Inverness to Glasgow (three and a half hour drive each way) on a Sunday, just to get more game time”

When I was younger I was at this wee camp thing and this girl said ‘put your hand up if you’re gonna play for Scotland?’ and I never once did because I was this young kid from up north and there’s no rugby up there and I never got to play”

“A few younger kids have got in touch on social media, saying that they’ve started playing rugby, they can’t wait for the Six Nations and that you’re their role model. Even just reading that stuff is absolutely amazing. It’s very motivating” 

What’s the goal for the Six Nations?

Everyone’s been training really hard”

We’re gonna step up the performances again. Obviously last year was a massive jump from the previous year, we were putting points on the board and it was competitive”

What did you make of the women’s sevens in Rio?

“Watching the women’s rugby sevens was inspiring, even as a pro 15’s player”

“I really do think that it’ll have a massive impact through out Great Britain, even the world. It can only be a good thing”

A word on Team GB against Canada in the semi-final?

“I thought GB played well”

“Canada came out firing, at the breakdown their physicality was just phenomenal. Team GB could only do so much against the pressure Canada were putting on them”

If you could play any position in a 15s team, where would you play and why?

“I would definitely stick at number 8, one-hundred percent”

What do you like about playing 8?

“I love being able to be in control at the back, you’ve got more opportunities to carry the ball, you can make big hits, you try and be everywhere you can in open play”

“My favourite thing in rugby is the big hits, the big carries and there’s no better place for that than number 8”

Who’s your inspiration?

Donna Kennedy. She’s the most capped women’s international, she played 8 for Scotland and she’s my mentor as well.

I never played against her, thank goodness, I’d probably be terrified. All her knowledge and what she’s done on the pitch. She’s a big inspiration”

You then have players like Maggie Alphonsi, in that World Cup final in 2014 her performance was outstanding”

Glasgow Warriors or Edinburgh?

Glasgow Warriors. I lived in Glasgow for four years and all the guys at the academy are looking to get contracts with Glasgow, a few have played for Glasgow and I’d say I’m more involved with Glasgow than I am Edinburgh”.

What’s the future for women’s rugby in Scotland?

This is the beginning. You can see now, there’s a path to take, there’s pro contracts. Hopefully that’s gonna drive more young girls to get involved”

In the club scene you’ve got a league up north, you know there was nothing there when I was growing up”

We are playing catch up [with England, Ireland and France] but it’s only so long until we’re going to get the first win on the board and we’re going to be really challenging the opposition”

The only way is up at the end of the day”

You can see my thoughts on the effect Rio could have on women’s rugby, here.

Don’t forget to sign up to my fantasy league and mailing list, here.

The Scribbler, September 13th, 2016

Twitter: @RugbyScribbler

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