Deborah McCormack The Surfing Scot Making Waves In Sydney

Three rivers in three different countries signpost the rugby journey of Harlequins and Scotland international Deborah McCormack.

Her life and rugby career to date are indelibly linked with waterways, or to be precise, three rivers, the Medway, the Clyde and the Parramatta river.

England, Scotland and Australia provide the watery backdrop to the story of this popular, friendly, and down to earth forward, who was scoring tries for fun in the Harlequins number seven shirt, during the knock out stages of last seasons Tyrrells Premiership.

For the geographically challenged, Kent, Motherwell and Sydney provide the location for the meandering trio.

Kent is home, and Medway RFC was where her rugby story began, Motherwell the home of her gran, and the strong family tie that led her to international honours, and Sydney, where her current rugby adventure is set.

It’s a long way from her usual training base, Surrey Sports Park, to the Woollahra oval in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, 10,579 miles to be precise, but just a week after a try scoring appearance in a pulsating Tyrrells Premiership final, against eventual winners Saracens, whilst most players were putting their feet up for a well-earned rest, Debs was having none of it, and decided to forgo a British summer,and switch hemispheres, to spender a winter down under playing for the Eastern Suburbs club in the delightful setting of Rose Bay.

Its worth remembering that winter residing on the edge of Bondi beach, bears no comparison to the ones endured here at home, they appear to consist of cloudless skies and temperatures of twenty-one degrees plus, unless her Instagram posts have been photo shopped.

Regular readers of my column, may remember a piece I wrote last November, entitled Deborah Mc Cormack Flower of Scotland, well I am delighted to report that this flower has blossomed, and positively bloomed all season, even when replanted in the back row, during a cold spell in the early spring.

Following a full season of domestic games and six international matches for Scotland, she had earned a well deserved rest, but rather than take the easy option, one of the nicest people in the game put her boots in her tucker bag and hopped on down to Oz.

She is not the first Scottish international export to tread the long path to Australia, in the 1830’s thousands of Scots emigrated to Sydney, mostly builders, tradesmen, engineers, tool makers and printers.

Ships built on one of those three rivers, the mighty Clyde, carried them on a journey that took three months before setting foot on a strange new land far away.

The tartan connections are also evident at the Eastern Suburbs club where the ladies coach is Campbell Aitken, the former Boroughmuir full back.

Scottish links to Australia are plentiful, Peter Dodds McCormick wrote the Australian national anthem “Advance Australia Fair” whilst fellow Scot “Banjo” Paterson wrote “Waltzing Matilda”

After a long flight to Sydney, via Dubai, Debs wasn’t exactly waltzing gently into active service and found herself training with Easts within forty-eight hours of touchdown.

Her first try for Easts came in the victory away to Blacktown, coach Campbell Aitken informed me she scored a brilliant try , catching a missed kick to touch, before throwing a dummy and racing twenty metres to score.

Debs has found Easts to be a cosmopolitan friendly club, with a wide international mix, lining up alongside her have been Canadians, Americans, Brazilians and Irish, she has loved every minute.

Her presence at Easts, has helped to bring on a young inexperienced side, using her wealth of top-level experience to bring on the forwards, particularly in the arts and crafts of line out play, where she has been able to expand the set piece repertoire in the way only a canny Scottish lock can, as a result she has left a lasting legacy at the club, and one of which she can be really proud.

The learning experience has been a two-way street, having had one to one skill sessions with 1999 Wallaby Rugby World Cup winner and “scrum doctor” Andrew Blades, who has also been forwards coach to Michael Chekai’s Australian side, will no doubt have enhanced her already comprehensive rugby education.

Coach Campbell Aitken is a huge advocate of women’s rugby, his ongoing tireless work has ensured the women are getting quality strength and conditioning, together with GPS monitoring systems, and equally importantly getting top billing on match day and playing on the main pitch, something that has really impressed Debs.

A hat trick of tries in her penultimate game against Wolongong University, in a 105-0 win, is likely to get her thrown out of the second row union for being over zealous, but her eye for the try line has always been one her great attributes, incidently that performance earned her a place in the Shute Shield team of the week.

Debs flies back to the UK this week, and straight into pre season training with Harlequins.

Last season, which became this season, has now become next season, how on earth players like her still have to work for a living, and remain amateur, astounds me, these folks are the beating heart and soul of rugby and its values, and surely it is now time to give them some financial recompense, not that she would ever complain.

A big season awaits with Harlequins and Scotland, who have three Autumn internationals, a January game against Spain in Madrid, before the Six nations comes calling once again.

Rivers take us on wonderful journeys of exploration and adventure, that open our hearts and minds to new cultures, new people, and new horizons, but equally importantly rivers bring us back home to family friends and loved ones.

Australia are one of the favourites to host the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup, so maybe the Parramatta river will be calling a certain Scottish forward back for one more journey, I for one certainly hope so.

Special thanks to Paul Seiser of SPA Images for the photographs contained in this article., website: https://www.spaimages.com.au/

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