As an Australian Women’s Open player, Samantha Hopkin has long been celebrated for her Touch game, but now, during a pandemic, Touch Football Australia is keen to celebrate this athlete for her important role in the healthcare industry, as a nurse.
Hopkin’s been a nurse for seven years now, currently working as an Intensive Care (ICU) Nurse at The Prince Charles Hospital in Brisbane.
“Nursing wasn’t something I always knew I wanted to do,” says the Brisbane Broncos NRL Touch Premiership player. “My mum kept trying to convince me to study Nursing as she thought it would suit me. She said I’m quite caring, so she thought I’d be good at. And it was something she wanted to do herself but never did.
“I suppose when I was growing up I never really went to hospital or knew what the job entailed, so it wasn’t until I got a job in a hospital and saw what a nurse's job was like that I decided I wanted to do it. I do enjoy it. Mum’s always right,” she laughs.
Samantha admits the shift work is hard. “But I suppose it’s just trying to be organised and prepared for night shifts and trying to get enough sleep, which is easier said than done. Trying to eat properly as well, because I find at work, we just sometimes have all these snacks.”
Being a nurse, you’d want to be a people person, and it’s clear that Samantha is. As well as nursing and Touch, which she loves “because of the social side of the sport”, her life revolves around friends and family.
Samantha is one of five kids (she has two older sisters and two younger brothers), and anyone who knows anything about elite Touch Football knows about the Queensland sister act of Samantha and sibling Emily Hennessey (nee Hopkin), who's also pictured above (to the left of Samantha).
The pair have represented Queensland and Australia together, and, living just 3km aay means they see each other “pretty much every day”, to train and to hang out with Emily and husband Dylan Hennessey’s three kids.
“I think the best things about [mine and Emily’s] relationship are that you always have someone that has your back or best interests at heart, but you also have someone that’s going to be honest and tell you how it is. We don’t always agree on things but at the end of the day we know we’ll always be there for each other.
"It's always an honour to represent our country in Touch Football, but it’s always that extra special playing alongside Emily. There have been some years where one of us hasn’t played and I always enjoy it more when she’s around, on and off the field."
To add to friends and family, now there’s a new F word thrown into Samantha’s mix: fiancé! Yep, one positive to come out of 2020 for Samantha is a new engagement – just over a week ago, in fact.
“It came as a big surprise to me. We had a two-month holiday booked in Europe. We were meant to leave in July so we had to cancel. Then Queensland opened up the restrictions a bit so you could travel around Queensland, so we booked a holiday for a weekend. That’s when he [Joshua] proposed to me, because he said he’d planned to propose while we were in Europe.”
Like most couples, Joshua, who played with the Doyalson team in NSW with his brothers, and also with Rebels at Elite 8, met Samantha through Touch Football – well, that’s how Joshua remembers it. “I don’t remember that, I don’t think that actually happened,” she laughs.
“He worked with Emily as a teacher down in New South Wales. I went down to babysit her kids so she could go out to her work Christmas party. That changed, Dyl’s mum was able to look after them, so I tagged along to the Christmas party and met him there.
“He moved up here last year and he works with Emily up here now too, she hooked him up with a job.” Being a teacher, Joshua has also had a challenging pandemic experience (having to teach some kids at school, others who are homeschooling, and working with new systems).
Being a family-focused girl, spending time with her family – her mum and dad as well as siblings, nieces and nephews – has been what’s got Samantha through this strange time.
“A month before COVID-19 hit Australia, I moved back into my parents' home, before going on the Europe trip. During the pandemic I’ve missed my friends, being able to go out whenever you want, and travelling. But it’s been nice being in lockdown with my parents and having their company.
"On our days off we’ve just been trying to keep each other entertained. I’ve also enjoyed not having anything on, and just being able to not worry about where I’ve got to be or what I’ve got to do.”
Started playing Touch at: “Eleven. I wouldn’t say I was very good at it. I was pretty tiny.”
Favourite Touch memories: “Winning in a 3 on 3 drop-off at NTLs for Cobras. Winning State of Origin, 2018. That’s another one of my favourites.”
How was World Cup 2019? “It was so hot. I remember playing in Darwin when I was younger, but nothing compares to that in Malaysia. It was a lot fun being around those girls and all the other teams was pretty cool.”
Interests outside of Touch and nursing? “Do I do anything else? It’s just hanging out with my family and friends. Emily and I do our own training so any time I’ve got a day off, we do that. We just enjoy having barbecues really.”
What’s next? “Over in Malaysia, I was having all these issues with my feet. I’d fractured a bone in my foot and was contemplating having surgery. I withdrew being available for the Trans-Tasman this year because I wasn’t sure what was happening. But it seems to have been getting better by resting it. It’s actually been feeling really good lately. I was still pretty keen to try to play State of Origin this year. That was pretty much the goal for this year, then to go from there.”