Strong Friend Maddi Elliott: Pro Rugby and the road to recovery
It never gets easier, you just get better
I met Maddi in 2013, even before meeting Brandi, through some girls in the Aussie 7's team and played Aus Tag with her in Cronulla.
We got to know each other well while I was working with the Australian 7's in Strength and Conditioning when she was playing.
Maddi is an exceptional athlete with a zest for life that is truly infectious. She works incredibly hard to get to her goals and cannot be held back.
Being a pioneer in any sport can be daunting. Professional women's rugby has not been around for very long and Maddi is one of the few who jumped in.
There have been set backs but, as usual, Maddi has turned it into an opportunity to grow, to learn and to help others.
Maddi, we're all here supporting you in your recovery and on your journey to rugby glory!
Tell me about yourself
I'm Maddi, 26 and from Sydney, Australia. I was a professional athlete playing Rugby 7s for Australia, and am currently recovering from a knee reconstruction after tearing my ACL playing 7s in Japan.
I grew up in a very active family where health and fitness was always encouraged. I played every sport under the sun, although my main sports were Surf Life Saving (beach sprinting), rhythmic gymnastics, hockey and Oztag (tag rugby).
I was fortunate enough to be very successful at these sports, representing my state in all of them, and bagging numerous state, national and World titles.
Having played team sports most of my life, I had never really trained in the gym or lifted any weights until I started Crossfit around 6 years ago. Now you'll find me there at least 4 times a week and it is a crucial part of my rehabilitation and strength training, as well as keeping me sane. I love it! I'm lucky enough that my whole family goes to the same box so I'm never short of a training partner!
I began playing rugby 7's in 2012 up until I tore my ACL in Feb 2017. I am now rehabbing and hope to be back on the field early next year.
Tell me about your experience as an athlete and your journey to become a professional?
I remember sitting with the family watching the Olympics on TV in 2012 and we were all discussing which sport we think would be most likely to make the Olympics for. I was tossing up between pole vault and volleyball (neither of which I'd ever tried!).
It was only a few months later that Rugby 7s was announced as a sport for the 2016 Olympics and they were doing a 'pathway to gold' to try and recruit some female rugby players as it was such a male dominated sport.
With my previous beach sprinting, tag and weights training I thought some of my skills may translate to rugby 7's so I sent off a few emails and got invited to go to the Australian squad's Sydney based training sessions.
The coaches must have seen some potential because I was invited to play my first tournament a few weeks later in Noosa for the Aussie Pearls where I made my first ever tackle!
From this tournament I went on to be selected to travel to Dubai to play in the inaugural Women's World Series tournament and get my first international Cap.
At that stage the sport wasn't professional, so we would train 3 times a week with the Sydney based squad and approx every 2nd weekend we would fly around the country to meet and train with the extended squad.
It wasn't until 2014 that the sport became professional, and I was one of the 20 females contracted to the full time program.
Tell me about the trials and tribulations of being an athlete?
Being a professional athlete sounds very glamorous, and don't get me wrong, I am so appreciative of all the opportunities I received and the ability to play a sport you love all around the World and be paid for it! But at times it can be extremely tough both physically and mentally.
Part of our rugby 7's contract meant we weren't allowed to do any of our other sports so I had to give up all of my tag, hockey and sprinting.
Any risky activities were also not allowed i.e. we couldn't go to the snow with friends or go waterskiing etc, and we also weren't allowed to play any domestic rugby 7s tournaments due to the injury risk.
Rugby 7's is a sport where 12 people are selected for each team. I was constantly on the fringe of making the team so a lot of the time I just missed out on the international tours.
One of the hardest parts for me was training full time for a sport and hardly ever getting to play any games.
At this stage I was fairly new to the sport, and I had played as few as 10 tournaments ever. It was that catch-22 where I needed game time to improve, but without experience I wasn't getting selected to play. The rare times I would get on the field I was too nervous to do anything in case I made a mistake so my confidence was pretty low.
In 2015 I ended up taking time off professional sport because it had become more like a job and I had lost the enjoyment of sport.
I focused on my career while playing tournaments all over Australia and the World to gain experience, and found that love of footy back again.
In 2016 I was asked to come back and play a tournament with the Aus girls again and with my newfound confidence I played the best footy I ever had.
In Feb 2017 I was selected to play a tournament in Japan for the AUS development team and I took the field in the semi-finals as captain. I was feeling great and playing good footy, but luck wasn't on my side as unfortunately I ruptured my ACL.
I was booked in for a knee reconstruction a few weeks later.
It has been a roller-coaster of emotions over the past 4 years, but set backs only make you stronger and I am looking forward to getting back on the field again soon, stronger than ever!
What is your usual training regimen?
Currently, I am focusing on my rehab so that involves lots of strength training which I have been doing both at my crossfit box and my sister's garage gym.
I am just starting to get back into straight line running so I do a few sessions a week down the oval with a bit of running and passing.
I'm counting down the days until I can get back into footy training and start doing a bit more agility and contact work!
Who’s your inspiration in your sport?
In my sport I use the AUS women's 7's girls to motivate me in my recovery.
Having watched them win the Olympic gold in Rio and seeing how far they have come helps push me to work harder in my rehab and get back out on the field.
I never really had childhood heroes who were famous sportsmen and women. I preferred to get inspiration from family and friends in my close environment.
My eldest sister, Brandi, is one of my biggest motivators and inspirations.
We are very competitive, training together most days. Even now at 26 weeks pregnant she is still smashing me!
We played all the same sports growing up so I always compared myself to her and tried to match her achievements.
I remember watching her play for Australia in Oztag when I was 11 and she was 19 and I knew I wanted to play in that team one day.
At 17 I made my first Aus side where we went on to play together for the next 8 or so years until she retired.
Tell me about your side hustle?
I have always been interested in the health science field, having studied Exercise Science and Nutrition, followed by a Masters in Diagnostic Radiography.
While I was at University and throughout my career as an athlete I worked part time as a personal assistant to my brother in law at a Real Estate agency.
After finishing up with rugby, I knew I should get a radiography job so my degree didn't go to waste but I loved my Real Estate job too much to give it away so I currently work 3 days of each a week.
I love doing two jobs and mixing up my work as I never get bored from doing the same thing!
What are your words to live by?
One of my favourite quotes is "it never gets easier, you just get better".
It can be applied to any aspect of life really, but it really resonates with me with training where my mindset is to continually work hard, do everything to my best ability and give everything 100%.
No matter how fit you are, you will always be hurting at the end of a hard session so it's nice to step back sometimes and appreciate how far you've come.
Where’s your favourite place to eat in London?
Unfortunately I've only been to London to play footy so our meals were limited to the hotel, rugby fields and airports - none of which I could recommend too much!!
Where can people find you online?