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Olympic Dream Postponed. True Resilience Revealed.

Having an Olympic dream postponed is a hard blow when you have sacrificed so much over the last four years (a lifetime) to prepare for it. In this episode, Sharni and I discuss:

  1. How her team, the Rugby Sevens are staying physically and mentally healthy and motivated while they wait for Tokyo to go ahead.
  2. If it is harder going into the next Olympics as reigning champions trying to defend a gold medal.
  3. How that first Australian gold medal in 2016 has doubled the number of girls playing rugby in this country.
  4. The future of women in sport in Australia.
  5. How she inspires young kids to reach their dreams.

#womeninsport #rugby #howgoodslivin #resilience #leadership #courage #education #wine&wisdom #inspiringwoman #facebooklive #interview

Heidi – Hello, and welcome to the Wine and Wisdom Show. Oh my goodness, if you are a returning guest, thank you so much for trusting in me and the show again, for it to be something worthwhile for you to tune into on a Wednesday night. But if you are here for the very first time, thank you as well. I don’t know if you know this about the Wine and Wisdom Show but it is all about connection. And I think what these last few months have taught us is that as humans, we really do crave being connected to other humans who can bring a smile to our face, some warmth to our heart and some wisdom to our brain.

Now, I feel very lucky that over the years I have been surrounded by some very talented and unique individuals who I believe, are making such a difference to our world because they are courageous and they are resilient, and they are the self leaders that we really want to be looking up to. And let me tell you, tonight is no exception. Oh my goodness! I think this is the first gold medal winner that I have ever had the opportunity to properly talk to who actually will talk back to me of course.

And that is the gorgeous, sparkly, talented and super fit Sharni Williams. She is a captain of the Australian Rugby Sevens team. They won the very first gold medal at the Rio Olympics and I don’t know if you were there or not. Perhaps not in Rio but watching here in Australia, I still remember the goosebumps and the pride that I felt watching those girls take that medal. And they were just incredible.

And this girl, I’m going to bring her up, because now I’m talking about her and she’s here but she’s not quite here because I haven’t brought her up. Here she comes there she is, look at her smiling face!

Hello Sharni, welcome to the Wine and Wisdom Show.

Sharni – Hey, thank you so much for having me, Heidi. It’s so awesome to be on this show. You’re doing a wonderful job and connection is so important.

Heidi – It is such an important thing right now, right? And I can imagine that well, for all of you watching that, you should know that right now, in a normal world, which none of us of course get to live in anymore but in a normal world, Sharni would be in Tokyo. It wasn’t that she chose to not go to Tokyo and be on my Wine and Wisdom Show, it wasn’t because of that, but perhaps if the choice was there? But Covid certainly has changed the dreams of many of us and I really wanted to bring Sharni on tonight because of the fact that you know, to have an Olympic dream to be part of a team that is going to an Olympic Games and then have it taken away from you.

The impact that would have because of this global pandemic, I mean we’ve all been impacted in our own small and large ways, in different ways, unique ways. But Sharni’s had her own unique way and I really wanted to bring her on to talk to us about that because I’m sure the wisdom she can share from how she’s handling it, means that we can perhaps take that wisdom and put it into our own lives that have changed so much. So I’m going to stop because I’ve just started babbling a little bit.

But Sharni, would you mind telling us all who you are, what you do, and what is the positivity that you’re sprinkling around our world?

Sharni – So as you know you I’m Sharni Williams. I am from a small country town called Batlow. And you’ve probably seen it on the news recently because it was affected by the bush fires.

So kind of been through that sort of stuff during the Covid.

Sharni – I play rugby, so I play rugby Sevens, which is seven on the field, we play 14 minutes each way. Sorry seven minutes each way, 14 minute game. I also play 15’s, which is 15’s game. So I’ve represented at three World Cups for that. And I train at F45. So I’m a coach in F45 in Avalon, and I also train some kids through a Slocoach virtual system. So I’ve been quite busy and I’m quite a positive, upbeat person and what you see is what you get, so hope you’re ready to strap in and learn about Sharni Williams.

Heidi – I’m strapped in. I’m ready, definitely, so much love. Sharni and I met last year, we were both in a wonderful project that Alana from Suddale Communications organised with BridgeClimb. And we were part of, I suppose the ambassadors for International Women’s Day in 2019 and had this immediate connection and I feel very lucky to have had that with you, Sharni. Not only because you are a gold medal winner but what you are doing at a community level for sport and for women in sport and for young rugby players coming through. I know we talked a few numbers previous to coming live.

When you said there was possibly about 30,000 girls playing rugby in 2016 prior to winning the gold. What are the stats now? What are we up to in Australia with girls playing rugby?

Sharni. -Yes, so we’re looking at probably about 60,000. So that’s kind of doubled over that time and we’d never had a path laid either for those kids coming through. So that really made, like it’s credit to rugby Australia for getting that pathway on board and making sure that the game survives. And that there are numbers for kids to go out there and actually play because you see they’re basically right at the moment for young kids. And it’s really, really important that we show them, not only is sport great for the mind and the body but it’s good for connections and figure out who you are as well.

As I said, we spoke about limitations. You put limitations on yourself and you don’t really realise what you’re capable of until you go out there and have a go and you might kind of shock yourself and go wow, I can actually tackle, wow that was fun, I did that. So I think that’s important to have that platform there.

Heidi. -Yes. So have you always been a rugby player? Did you start off as a young girl playing rugby? How did it all begin?

Sharni – All right. So, I was an eight year old kid, right? Growing up in Batlow, 1500 people, and I declared in my auntie’s living room that I was going to be an Olympian. Eight years old!

Heidi – Wow!

Sharni – And from then on, I was driven. I was driven to do everything I possibly could. I played every single sport. I did cross country, athletics, cricket with the boys, tennis. Like I was just searching for that sport to be able to get up on that podium and an opportunity came in 2006, just after I finished year 12, so that’s showing my age and I moved to Canberra for hockey.

So I was a hockey player at a pretty high level for quite some time and rugby actually came into my life in 2008. I played five games of 15’s and then made the Australian team so yes, I’m a little bit of a sports freak.

Heidi – Actually. I would love to be an annoying person.

Sharni – That’s where I feel me. I feel so great around sport. That’s, it makes me who I am.

Heidi – Are team sports, you felt that was more your style?

Sharni – Yes definitely. Like I’m a motivator. I’m someone that can really showcase in who I am. I’m a doer. Show by example, lead by example and that’s what created who Sharni Williams is and it’s pretty cool to be me.

Heidi – I think so. I wouldn’t mind it. I wouldn’t want to be. I’m a bit of a girl with that kind of thing.

Sharni – We’ll take it easy. We’ll start with the knees, just run.

Heidi – So for anyone who is watching I’d love to know if you could go back to when you are an eight year old kid and go right, I’m going to be an Olympic, I’m going to win a medal at the Olympics, which sport would it have been in? If you could put that in the comments, we’ll obviously, it doesn’t have to be rugby. You don’t have to feel like you have to put rugby because Sharni’s on but I’d love to know which sport it would be that you’d like to be a gold, silver or bronze medalist at the Olympics? That would be really cool. And while we’re getting those comments coming through, I’d love to hear a little bit more about, everything I talk about is to do with resilience and boosting. Here we go. Sharni Williams, okay?

Sharni – Ah, thanks, love it. And rugby.

Heidi – Yes. I would love to know who at like, talking sorry, I got off track then. Talking about resilience and talking about how to improve people’s physical and mental health and really, right now, when you’re supposed to be in Tokyo backing up the medal, it’s not many weeks off, you said, what was the date when you were going to be winning that gold medal again?

Sharni – Yes. 1st of August standing up on the podium.

Heidi – Yes.

Sharni – Yes. Back to back gold medal.

Heidi – Yes, that would have been you. That would have been you, sorry.

Sharni – And part of being like an athlete is you visualise that. So I still visualise that right now because it’s it hasn’t been completed, the date hasn’t been ticked off.

Heidi – Sure.

Sharni – And it’s still there.

Heidi – Yes, you’ve still got to continue to do that. I’ve known her for a long time, she was an excellent swimmer and she would have definitely been on that podium as an Olympian, for sure.

So Sharni, what are you doing, you say you’re doing some visualisation still obviously, to be on that podium. But how are you digging deep to be able to continue, I mean, you would have been in the tapering down stage obviously to go into it physically? But what are you doing physically and mentally to kind of stay on track for the Olympics?

Sharni – Yes, I guess there’s a number of things to think about here. Is that now it’s been reset, right? So first of all when it hadn’t been postponed you kind of still sort of second guessing, figuring things out. Wondering what the unknown is. Whether it’s still going to go ahead because tournaments were starting to get cancelled. So you sort of tried to put your feelers out on how you feel. I’m an emotional person, I know I react to emotion so I was trying to figure out how I was feeling. And as I said, “We’re going through roller coasters.” Up down, there’s emotions all over the place so I think the way I’ve been dealing with it, and I look back and reflect.

And I was starting to feel the hole. So I was really overloading my schedule because I was like, oh there’s nothing for me to do okay, I’m going to go and study. I study online or I’ll read this book and there was no time for me just to go, let it happen. This is actually, you’re living this and it’s actually been postponed. Like have the moment where you’re upset and you’re sad about it all because it’s been a four year plan. And you want to be on that podium, you want to be in Tokyo, you’ve been there before. You’ve done all the preparation you possibly could. You’ve sacrificed everything, birthdays, weddings. You’ve put your body through endless and endless times of being smashed.

You’re looking at the end of your career. Are you going to retire after the Olympics? Are you going to go for another year? You know, my whole plan was to go to 2021 because there’s another world, there’s a World Cup for 15’s. So now it’s like they fall on the same time now. So it’s, Olympics falls first and then there’s seven weeks until the World Cup in New Zealand. So now that’s been reset and I have to figure out whether my body is capable of doing that.

So I guess it’s firstly, you deal with it and you get that sorted. You have to have that emotion, you have to just let that go and it’s not being weak, it’s just like, I’m here, I’m present, this is how I’m feeling, boom, gone. Okay, what’s the next thing I need to do, right? What does this look like? But the unknown, right? The unknown hits you fair in the face and you’re like, well I can’t plan anything because I don’t know what’s happening.

Heidi – Yes.

Sharni – But I guess that’s where my positivity comes into it and it’s like, let’s take day by day. Let’s do something that I enjoy doing and that’s me going to F45 and coaching people. Because that’s where I feel like I shine. Like I am able to give something to someone else that I have learned. And you see the smile on their face, you see them making a difference so that then makes me feel good. But who gives back to Sharni?

Heidi – That’s right.

Sharni – So that’s where my meditation comes in. So there’s a few different apps out there that you can do. There’s Headspace and that’s normally the one that I do. And you can just sit there and be in the moment, be you. Some of those voices, like some of the computer voices can probably get to you. But if you can really just switch that off and be present, then I think it’s definitely what should happen. You know the world has stopped and it’s stopped, I’m not a massive believer on everything happens for a reason but some things do. Your choices, the way you choose is the way that life starts to go.

So I could’ve chose to spit the dummy and throw my toys and say, “This is absolute rubbish.” And continue to go down that path or I can go and throw my toys and then go, “Wait hold on, what’s the next step I can take, but yes I’ve acknowledged that I’m not okay, but what’s the next step I can take to make it better? How can I choose to be a better person and how can I choose to have a better moment.” Because everybody’s going to or something but it’s how do you see that like, how do you see their opinion to it? Like you can really take it on board and say, “That person just sprayed me.” Or you can go, “Oh, what’s actually going on in their life, what happened to them for them to just spray me like that?” Or interpret it as, “They sprayed me.”

Heidi – Yes.

Sharni – So I think those sort of things have really got me through this sort of stuff, if that makes sense?

Heidi – Tapping into what we’ve got control of, right? Because there’s so much out of our control right now. Whether you’re someone striving to win another gold medal at the Olympics or somebody who is just fearing that one’s job stops in September, that you’re going to lose your role. So much is, lose your job, there’s so much out of control for millions of people across the globe and although it’s very easy to go into the, “Aah, when this happens, what if this happens.” And the catastrophising, this is where the meditation comes in for you, but if we could just stay present of what we’ve got a little control of in our lives and for you it sounds like, you know you’re in during the sound hills this morning. I mean, the Olympics might have been postponed but that doesn’t mean that your physical and mental health has to be postponed, right?

You’re still working on that, by the sounds of it.

Sharni – Yes, and it doesn’t mean that everything just stops either, right? Like it’s not like it’s the end and I feel like I’m in a really good position right now. Like I’m still being able to play the game I love. And that’s not going to last forever. So if I go into this and play the game that I love in a really bad mind frame, then I’m not going to get the best out of the last years that I have left to play.

Heidi – Yes.

Sharni – And then I’m going to reflect on that when I’m older, I’ll reflect, “Oh, do I have any regrets?” And I think that’s probably where we really get stuck. Not just as athletes but as people, is going back to the past and having a memory and then judging that for how your future is going to be or how the present really is. It’s like, well, I have a choice. I have a choice to live it the way that I saw it before or the way the past was or I can actually learn from that and go, “Well, that didn’t work last time, let’s try it this way.” And maybe you have success. But we get stuck in a pattern and we continue to live that way and it’s like well, you’re going to continue get the same result.

Heidi – Yes. Finest, that you are. Thank you.

Sharni – Thanks lass, for being out there on the field, mate.

Heidi – So Sharni we are, I’d love to know, obviously you’ll get to Tokyo next year. What is the pressure like knowing that you won a gold in Rio and you want to back it up of course, how does that change your approach to it rather than going in with the unknown, like you would’ve with Rio? Of course you would’ve had aspirations and you would’ve been visualising that being on the podium. It feels to me that that would be very different from knowing what it’s like to be on the podium and having the country’s expectations behind you, what goes on in your mind with that?

Sharni – Well, yes for one is you look at the pressure, right? And you think pressure is the only, is only when you put it on yourself. Because if you take other people’s opinions on board and sort of read into them going, “Ah, there’s going to be a lot of pressure on you.” It’s like well, “Okay yes, there is if I’m going to listen to how you’re feeling about it.” But for me, I see it as a challenge. And that’s how some athletes are wired, right? It’s like well, what’s the next thing, how can I better myself, how can I push myself even harder and how can I get a better result? Imagine two gold medals, that’s got to be a driver and if that’s not a driver for you then you’re probably in the wrong sport. Or you probably shouldn’t be playing sport because there’s got to be a reason why you want to be able to get that. And mine is completely different to the first time.

The first time a eight year old kid was holding that dream and determining what was going to happen and I couldn’t picture anything else because that eight year old kid said it. And that’s how I kept living it. Well, now I’m a 32 year old woman and I get to choose how I want to see that and use all those experiences and share them with the younger girls that haven’t been there. Because that’s really a big thing. It’s not necessarily the pressure, it’s getting everybody on board, on the same page, at the same time. Because you know that that’s not possible. You’re actually going to have one or two people that aren’t there but can you carry them? Can you get them across the line and that’s why we do those team building activities. That’s why we do the sand dunes, is to see when people reach, how far can they go and how much carrying do we need to do when there’s one or two people that aren’t on for the day.

Heidi – Yes. So the amazing Mark Beretta Channel 7 sports guru, commentator expert has a question for you. He wants to know about the pressure you feel while leading by example and always having to feel like you’ve got to be the best player on the field because you are the best.

Sharni – It might be a little bit buddy.

Heidi – He is too probably but how does that feel because you are recognised across the world as this kind of, I don’t know if “all-round” rugby player is the right expression but someone who is the foundation and the definition of women’s rugby? So yes, she is the best, Steve, Sky sorry. But she is the best. That again comes with pressure to live up to that expectation. So you talked a little bit about that just then. How do you deal with that personal expectation?

Sharni – Thanks Brett, I remember him actually interviewing me before the Olympics and he said, “What color’s the medal going to be?” And I kept saying, “Gold mate, it’s going to be gold.” He kept trying to tell me, “No.” And I was like, “No, it’s going to be gold.”

Heidi – How could he tell you, “No?”

Sharni – Not really no, he’ll probably get me for that but he kept asking me and I just kept saying, “Gold.” Like it was just inevitable. But about the pressure and leading by example, that’s who I am. And that’s me, that’s how I feel comfortable and being out on the field, I think I spoke to you before about what sport’s given me. Sport’s given me this identity. Sport’s created me into who I am and given me the confidence to be the person I am. I don’t think I would have got it anywhere else. I might have had a lot of drive but it’s the people, I guess when you listen to opinions when you’re younger, it’s the people that have said, “Oh, you won’t be able to achieve that, or you can’t do that.” Or the voices inside your head telling you you can’t do it.

That’s how I’m driven. I get told that I can’t do it and I’m like, “Well, I’ll show you.” I’ll show you, so that’s how I adapted that. Is like, I’ll show you how to do this. So that’s how I lead by example. So that comes pretty easy for me. And yet I can see the pressure from performing all the time and being the best player on the field. I don’t necessarily think I’m the best player but I do my job the best. That’s how I look at it. My role in the team, I have to perform that and I need to do the best I can. And that’s putting pressure on myself but that’s also coming from training, right? So repetition.

Repetition after repetition after repetition. All that time spent kicking the ball, passing the ball, trusting and believing in your skill. If you can’t trust and believe that you’re capable of doing it then there needs to be some meditation done. There needs to be some self talks, some self love, definitely done. Because otherwise you’re not going to get there. You’re not going to be able to perform the best you possibly can if you don’t believe you can do it.

Heidi – Absolutely. And I know you’re very passionate about grassroots rugby and you know, making sure that we have, I don’t know if you in the sporting world call it a pipeline coming through, I don’t know, is that what you call it?

Sharni – Well, we call it pathway.

Heidi – Yes. It’s a P word.

Sharni. -Skating is in the Olympics so pipeline would be good.

Heidi – I don’t know where that word came from, anyway. Yes, so what do you see as how Australia is doing with pathway of young players coming through and bringing them officially, I suppose, into your team eventually? How does that work and what do you make of that?

Sharni – Yes, I guess after the Olympics it was crucial for us to get a pathway. As I said Rugby Australia has done pretty well at making that with the Aon Series. So we adopted a university series where we could get some Sevens players but then try and get some university players coming in and playing Sevens. I still think that there can be more competitions. You train and train and train so much that I think we should be playing a bit more and maybe utilising some more coaches as well, through the grassroots. I’ve been doing some coaching during Covid and doing some screen one on one with Slocoach. Getting some kids just to send in some videos and show me what their skill level’s like. And then you send it back to them. And I think that’s the part we’re missing. We’re missing the part where the players that they look up to and idolise, giving feedback to younger players. And I really think that there’s some way that we can adopt.

And I see the Wallabies do it every now and then. They’ll go to a different venue and kids will come and have fan days and things like that. But I really think that the rugby Sevens can adapt that as well. Because, you know, out of sight out of mind. So if you’re in their sight you’re going to see them. You give them a footie, take them to have a game and stuff like that, then they go home then they find the footie under their bed later on. It’s like, “Oh, remember how great that day was?” So and that’s the feeling you want to have those kids have as well. Because that’s what it’s about, it’s about having fun. Yes, sometimes it can be brutal and you can lose, you know there’s going to be some downsides but at the end of the day if they’ve got some fun out of it, I think that’s the best part. And just providing them with competition so that they can go out there and actually make some big hits.

Heidi – Yes, which leads me to my next question that I really want to chat with you about, is around the whole women in sport area. What did you notice that, or did you notice a change once you had won the gold medal for, I mean, we know the numbers have changed with girls playing rugby, did you notice any change in what was published in our papers? I’m not afraid to say that I just get so disgusted anytime I go to the sports part of any paper and I’m doing this, if there’s one woman in any photograph, it’s like a bit of a joy. It’s like, “Shit oh, they’ve decided to do that today.” You know, it feels so rare, what are your insights of actually being in it, on that?

Sharni – So I’m actually going to go a bit broader here and not just talk about women’s sport. I’m going to say, “Yes.” about women’s sport but women in general, the pay difference, right? How’s that still possible? There is no wire to that either. There’s no answers and it doesn’t make sense. Why doesn’t it just happen? Why can’t you just go in and go, “Yep, women are just going to get paid the same.”

Heidi – Yes.

Sharni – It’s been way too long. Women have been playing rugby since 1930’s or so. And look at where it’s at? Yes, we get little wins here and there but women are so powerful and strong that we need to be able to stand up here as a unit and go, “You know what, this is not okay, it’s moving too slow.” We’ve got women CEO’s in businesses and the men CEO’s are still getting paid more. It’s like we’re doing the same job.

Heidi – Exactly.

Sharni – There’s so many things that get my back up against it about this.

Heidi – Yes.

Sharni – And it really, really hurts but as I said, you have to be able to let go of some of that stuff as well. And yes, you look at women’s sport and there has, after the gold medal, there has been so much success but is it the same success? Is it equal? We all talk about equality and we see equality for a little bit and then it’s sort of gone.

Heidi – Yes.

Sharni – The AFL, they’ve done really well. Marketed their girls amazingly. The cricket, how amazing was the cricket, right? They finally got on the world stage, they got Katy Perry to come along, that’s what that’s about. That was an absolute mastery in the showcase but we’re celebrating it because it’s something that’s never happened before. But you see the men’s AFL, you see the men’s NRO, you start comparing and it can be really sad. So I try to stay away from comparing things and just go, “Well, we’re still ticking away here but when is it going to change?” So that’s, it’s a hard view because I’m in it and living it.

Heidi. -Yes.

Sharni – And there’s a lot of, everybody’s living it. Any woman out there in the world is doing the exact same thing.

Heidi – Yes.

Sharni – And we just think it’s normal and we’re sort of just letting it happen. So it’s just, yes.

Heidi – Yes. It’s, I was very interested to hear how it is for when you’re actually in it. As a spectator, I’m a dedicated spectator to sport and but I just get so mad at it all the time. I don’t know what the answer is? I don’t know, I have this kind of thought around that it seems like the sports where the men and the women are played at the same time, like tennis, during World Cups and Olympics, it feels like then there’s a little more equality. But at any time World Cups or any kind of sport is, there’s a men’s thing and then a women’s thing at a separate time. That is even a bigger gap. Bigger, bigger, bigger gap.

Sharni – Yes.

Heidi – It’s quite remarkable.

Sharni – Yes it is, it’s like who’s in control of making these decisions? That’s what it comes down to. And who wants to step up and make the difference? Where everybody’s got a voice and sometimes it’s too hard to say it and your opinion. Like this is my opinion and I’m spreading that opinion as what I feel and what I see. And if someone else–

Heidi – And what you feel like?

Sharni – And my experience. But some other people have opinions as well, right? So they might not see it and experience it that way either but that’s where communication is important. Communication and connection. People communicating about it and connecting with the right people to make them aware of what is happening and how people are feeling and giving ideas and solutions for what could be better. And at the moment the economy is struggling and it’s money. It’s always money, it’s playing fields, there’s so many things that come into it but if people want to fix it then it can be fixed. It’s a choice.

Heidi – Yes. Absolutely. And it’s an interesting question from Karen, does more work need to happen with the marketing, I presume you mean Karen, more work with marketing women in sport, I think that’s, is that what you’re asking?

Sharni – Yes, I guess that’s what she’s talking about.

Heidi – Does it, I mean I’ve, we’ve got 50% of the population female so why would it? That’s an interesting question though is because does it take more money, I don’t know?

Sharni. -Or is it the stereotype that we have about females and males? Should it just be humans? Should we not be comparing the two and just being like, “Well, you’re a rugby player and you’re a rugby player and you guys are going to get the exact same thing.”

Heidi – Yes.

Sharni – Rather than it being, female’s rugby, male’s rugby.

Heidi – Yes, big gap.

Sharni – Yes because as soon as you start adding gender to it or different things like that, then it starts to become, “Oh, we’re comparing each other and there’s no equality and stuff.” I just really think we should treat every human the same.

Heidi – We should, yes. No matter what, in sport, in work, in volunteering, whatever it might be. In the arts.

Sharni – Yes 100%.

Heidi – Sharni, you being the captain, you have had to really ensure that you’ve kept your team on track, obviously with their physical abilities and their training. But also motivating them to keep the goal, the end goal in mind the whole time. And when you are giving so much, like you are having to give so much all the time, I wonder what you’re actually doing with yourself to ensure that your, what I call your resilience bucket, stays strong and sturdy and you’re able to keep physically and mentally well yourself? What’re your, those habits and rituals that you ensure that you do to make sure you stay resilient?

Sharni – It’s huge, it’s huge to look after yourself. The cool part is, is my team is so amazing. My team really can look after themselves, there might be a few weak moments where I’m like, “Oh no, I need to sort that idea out.” And I’ve got an amazing co-captain with Shannon Parry so we can work things out together and I think that system works really well. And I’ve said that those girls are just awesome to be able to help themselves. But I’ve got an amazing girlfriend that looks after me. She’s really awesome to be able to just go and chill out with, go and have a picnic. Really getting back to who Sharni is outside of rugby and surrounding yourself with good people. I just don’t allow negativity in my life. Even talking about the women’s sports and stuff like that how that get me agitated but I don’t let that take over me because I’m like well, “It is what it is at the moment and I can’t fix it.”

It’s a bigger picture than me. I’m only one part of it so, going to the beach, getting in the salt water, like that’s the best thing possible. And I’m so lucky that–

Heidi – You’re a dedicated surfer, aren’t you?

Sharni – Well I try. I dabble in it but I’m not that great.

Heidi – I don’t know.

Sharni – I’m a dedicated mermaid, let’s put it that way.

Heidi – Oh, I want to be the mermaid actually.

Sharni – Yes. You can come out to the beaches and we can go be mermaids in the ocean. Yes, little flip around.

Heidi – That’s perfect. My style.

Sharni – Yes. Definitely. But there’re things that centre me back to who I am and why I’m here on earth to provide for myself but to provide joy to others.

Heidi – It sounds like Sky actually knows how good you are on a surf board?

Sharni – Yes, I think she knows how much of a good human I am too. I mean how good a human she is, she’s one of those people that I surround myself with. Ah thanks Mel, that’s my partner out there.

Heidi – Ah, hey Mel. Sharni, now you have got something very special to show us, haven’t you?

Sharni – I do.

Heidi – Are you all ready for what is about to be shown? Oh, not that!

Sharni – It is a pretty amazing book, you need to get on board and read it though.

Heidi – Ah, you’re so gorgeous. But not that, the other thing.

Sharni – Oh, you mean this, this heavy thing.

Heidi – That thing, oh my goodness, look at that everybody. Fair dinkum, gold medal.

Sharni – Bit shiny.

Heidi – Wow! Look at that. Sharni was telling me … Ah yes, look at you, ah yay. When I take a, when I get off recording later I’m going to take a screenshot of that, of me with a gold medalist.

Sharni – You can actually put it on when we meet up.

Heidi – I can’t wait for that. Sharni was telling me how she actually, you know some people you would think would put their gold medal in a locked cabinet in their house. Oh no, not Sharni, tell everybody where your gold medal is kept.

Sharni – Well, anyone that knows me, I drive a ute, and it sits in the glove box of my ute so people that know my ute don’t go near it. But it sits there because it’s a community medal to me. I didn’t get there on my own. I definitely got there through my community. Batlow supported me so much. Canberra then supported me. Tax payer dollars you know, that gets us to the Olympics. So thank you everybody out there that pays taxes. It’s about being able to share this medal.

You know, eight year old kid earned it but as I said, I’m all about community and sharing that around. There’s not a lot of people who’ve ever seen a gold medal.

Heidi – No.

Sharni – And I think that’s pretty cool for them to sort of feel, most comments are, “Oh my God, look how heavy it is.” It’s, I think it’s 1.5? Yes.

Heidi – Right. Wow!

Sharni – So, yes that’s my little bit of shine.

Heidi – Ah well, Sharni is shining, let me tell you. And I just, when you’re telling me that story I can imagine you’re talking about pulling up and if there’s some kid who’s just kicking a footie around and he gets to see a gold medal and that just is his inspiration immediately and aspiration to what is possible. And he gets to talk to you, someone who’s just so genuine and like you know, “I’m from a little country town, I’m just like you are, I was just like you are right now, you could have this dream too.” So I mean that’s what we need, don’t we? That connection with Olympians like yourself, amazing inspirational role models, talking to our young kids to give them hope and let them dream like you dreamt.

Sharni: – Yes. At the end of the day we’re human beings as well, all right? We’re not invincible. We, some people might get paid loads and loads of money and that then creates them as their worth but it’s not absolutely who they are. They’re not just, they’re not a number, they’re not a figure out there. They’re a human being and once you get down to who they are and them spreading some inspiration then I think that then inspires, it’s infectious, right?

Heidi – Yes.

Sharni – And that little kid then has an opportunity to go out there. As I spoke about those obesity rates are definitely rising and we need to get those kids out there and finding out who they are. Oh God.

Heidi – Chris, oh my God, thank you for that. Wow.

Sharni – Chris Guy was one of my school teachers, thank you for that comment.

Heidi – Chris, he’s amazing. Oh wow! I love that, thank you Chris for putting that. What did Mr Guy teach at school?

Sharni – Oo, what did you teach? Maths? Jees, sorry about that, it’s been a while, finished in 2005, sorry mate.

Heidi – Sharni, I have one last question from me. If anybody else has a question that they would like to ask Sharni please put it in the comments. But my question to you is, what is the one piece of wisdom that you have been handed down or gifted that has really meant a lot to you and I’d like to know what that piece of wisdom was and the impact that it has made for your life?

Sharni – I guess it’s probably, I’m going to have to say two because one of them is just my mother. She is such an awesome person and she would always say, “Just be Sharni.” And I was always like, “Just be Sharni, what?” It didn’t really make sense to me until a bit later on and I went “Oh, I actually like who I am.” I figured out who I am and I understand what mum was saying. So, “Just be Sharni.” was probably a really good one.

But show those haters, so be driven, haters are always going to hate but don’t listen to them.

I guess if I give you an example is like, as our stereotype, women shouldn’t love women. I’ve got a girlfriend, a partner. Women shouldn’t be mechanics, I’m a mechanic. Women shouldn’t drive utes, hey, I drive a ute. And women shouldn’t play rugby, well, there you go. Women can do it. And I think that’s something that definitely stops us.

Yes, definitely and I’m driven that way and I’m a prime example that you can do that. So don’t let anything deter you.

Heidi – I love that. And good on you for just being you. It’s a hard thing in today’s society to just embrace who the hell we are, if we’re not like the perfect fit to what society thinks we should be. That can be a really hard gig, especially while you’re younger. When you’re so, there’s so much pressure it seems, right? And that’s why Sharni, I know you said this is out of your comfort zone tonight but seriously this is why these conversations with you are so important. So that young girls know that they do not have to fit the mermaid model, they don’t. They can be whoever they want to be. And if they want to love girls, if they want to drive a ute, if they want to play rugby and they want to be a mechanic, why not go for it?

Sharni – Yes, 100%.

Heidi – Well, thank you everybody for coming on tonight. I’ve gone over time again. I just, I don’t know why I think I can just do it in half an hour when I’ve got someone like Sharni on? I could continue to talk but I appreciate you all being here. Thank you all for your beautiful comments, yes, there’s so many lovely comments. You’re so loved, Sharni and all I can say on behalf of Australia, thank you for being you, being Sharni. Thank you for being the first gold medal in Rio, go girls!

Sharni – Yahoo.

Heidi – Yahoo. And I tell you what, your fan group is going to be increasing by the day between now and Tokyo. And we’re going to be behind you because I know you’re going to back that up. And we’re so proud of you, thank you.

Heidi – Thank you for doubling the numbers of girls in sport just in rugby, let alone whatever else. Thank you for everything.

Sharni – All right, thank you so much Heidi, this has been unreal. Always learn something from it. And just even you having this platform is brilliant. The wisdom you share, the people that tune in here, thank you for tuning in. And keep supporting Heidi, it’s really amazing what she’s doing and funnily enough we’ve only met once so look at the connection that we were able to have in just one meeting. Imagine what you can have while meeting people on this channel. So thanks Heidi, love you to bits.

Heidi – Love you to bits. Before we go, I think it’s really good what Linda has just said. She’s got a four year old girl running out the backdoor with a footie. How good is that?

Sharni – Oh my God, it’s amazing.

Heidi – Ah, yay. All right, I think that’s a beautiful way to end tonight.

Sharni – We’ve done our job, well done.

Heidi – Of course my body’s not as much of a temple as Sharni. She’s got footie players on her cup of water and I’ve got beautiful shiraz in my wine glass but whatever you’re enjoying right now, thank you for tuning in and I look forward to seeing you all in a couple of weeks. Good night.

Sharni – Cheers.

Heidi – Cheers.

About Sharni Williams:

A true pioneer of Women’s Rugby, Sharni made her international debut for Australia playing 15’s against New Zeal& in 2008. Since Sharni’s debut, she has represented Australia at four world cups, won an Olympic Gold medal & a silver medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

The current captain of the Australian Women’s Rugby Sevens, Sharni has proven herself throughout the world as one of the most all-round players within the game.

A passionate ambassador for women’s sport, & the growth of grassroots rugby, Sharni is now looking to share her wisdom & knowledge to give back to rugby lovers all over the world.

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