Touch Football athlete Sammy-Jo Curtis was set to make her Australian Women’s Open debut in the Open Trans-Tasman today, but COVID-19 has delayed that dream eventuating, as it has for many debutantes.
When Tarryn Aiken – Curtis’s Gold Coast Titans NRL Touch Premiership teammate – had to withdraw from her position in the Aussie team due to injury, Curtis was informed she’d been selected to replace Aiken.
“It was so exciting when [coach] Swain [Rovelli] rang to tell me, I was a bit shocked,” said the 24-year-old. “It was bittersweet, with Tarryn being injured, especially when she’s one of my closest friends. So I was pretty heartbroken for her, but after talking to her, she was so positive and happy for me.”
Touch Football Australia was about to announce Curtis’s spot on the team post-National Touch League, when COVID-19 threw the world upside down and forced the indefinite postponement of the Open Trans-Tasman Australia vs New Zealand Test Series.
“Everyone was very devastated. Obviously we were kind of expecting it, the news didn’t come out of nowhere, though everyone was hopeful it would still be able to go ahead.
But Curtis is staying positive. “It sucks but hopefully with a lot of hard work I can be back there eventually.”
In lieu of being able to catch up with Curtis over a No. 2 Sportsground in Newcastle, we quizzed her remotely.
You’ve worked really hard to make it into the Australian Women’s Open team – what do you think helped get you all that way?
“I think definitely my support network, my family, my Rebels and Titans teammates, my coaches. I’m lucky to play with a really close group of girls. Everyone’s constantly pushing each other to be better, and supportive of each other when we do succeed, so that’s always been a really good way to stay motivated and accountable."
You speak often about the influence of your coach Renee Murphy, did she play a big part in helping you get here?
“One hundred per cent. When Swain rang and told me I was selected, she was one of the first people I called to tell, after my Mum, and she was so excited and happy for me. The first thing I said was I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do it without her. Not just her influence on the playing side of things, but off-field as well. She’s always made clear it’s about being a good person first. Culture is a massive thing for her, and what she’s created with the teams I’ve played in, I think everyone who’s been coached by her would say the same thing – her influence on our sporting careers is everything.”
How much do you miss Touch at the moment?
“I thought I’d enjoy a bit of a break but I’m going crazy. Our whole household is going crazy. My brother [Jesse Curtis] and my partner [Jayden Love] play Touch [both for the Titans] as well. And my mother was going to be manager of our Queensland State of Origin team and manages the Sharks. So everyone’s kind of going a bit mad at the moment. I think it’s more the connection with your teammates. The girls that we play with are like our best friends and we’ve become family and now we haven’t seen each other for so long. So yeah, going crazy.”
So what's getting you through this time?
“I’m really lucky that I have a gym at home so I’m training a lot. My partner Jayden and I live together so we can train together, keep each other positive. He did his ACL at the end of last year and was devastated. Then when this happened, it felt for me like going through something similar – like opportunities had been taken away. But he’s been so positive through the whole thing. So it’s been really good to have that close support. He motivates me and pushes me to train. Now that he’s back in the gym, it’s been good to have him to train with and stay accountable to. We’re focusing on being fit and strong for when we come back to Touch.”
- You’re a personal trainer – what's your fitness mantra? “Always show up. The best time to train is when you don’t want to.”
- Best game-improving tip? “Take on every piece of feedback you can, and whether it’s positive or negative, figure out a way you can use it to be better.”
- Pre-game rituals? “I tie my shoe laces twice.”
- What's something most people wouldn't know about you? “I used to have a pet kangaroo.”
- What would you say to encourage others to give Touch Football a try? “Everyone can play. Get out there and give it a go. Whether it’s socially or competitively, you’ll have fun, get fit and meet the most amazing people.”