Liz Patu is a former Australia Wallaroos captain and the most- capped Test player in the team’s history, with 33 international Test matches. The tight-head prop shares some highlights of her journey as she paved the way for Pacific women in rugby.
My name is Liz Patu. I am 34 years of age. My family is Samoan/Chinese. I come from Vaimea, Samoa and I attended Corinda State High School in Queensland, Brisbane.
I grew up watching rugby my whole life and my dad also played rugby in his day. I was always into athletics until Corinda State High School had a rugby team, but it did not last long for a sport. After completing my high school I went into working and doing a Diploma in Tourism Operations management.
One of my mates was playing for Western Bulldogs at the time and knew there was a women’s team at the club. He asked if I wanted to join, so he took me down for a training session. I loved the physicality of the game and that we can hit people legally (laughs). I then decided to keep playing back in 2009.
From there, I met Felicity Bennetts who was a player as well and who assisted me in trialling out for Qld Reds. I never thought anything of it, and once I got picked in the squad I decided to take it seriously and train my butt off. Felicity and her family supported us as she trained me in 2013. I got a call up from Wallaroos coach Paul Verrell (now retired); he wanted me to come along to a whole-squad training session in Canberra, ACT.
The physicality, comradery and along with the challenges (which I pushed myself for) is what I loved and pursued in my rugby career.
Like anyone else, my family was my biggest motivation and I also wanted to prove that women can play a men’s game.
It was not easy, but again I was like one of the boys in my family. I loved being outdoors, but with my dad’s family I was brought up with the boys in my family, so it was easy for me, so to say.
We had to look for work to earn a living, as rugby was not paid at the time; so that would have taken a toll on me mentally it was hard.
But if I pushed myself and remember my family who motivates me; those are the reasons why I overcame the obstacles. And there are so many factors to consider that we would have come across especially for an amateur player playing in a professional environment.
It was hard. We even had to pay for our way to go to State Championships at the time; and sometimes we had to fundraise.
However, all those obstacles were worth it as we now have heard that the current Wallaroos will be getting contracted; which is what we (past and present players) have worked for. But again it is about the future of our young players.
No words can explain the feeling (of becoming a Wallaroo) but it was all worth the pain, challenges and late nights. And being a Pacific descendant, it definitely tells the world, especially the Pacific nations, that if we stick to something, you can achieve it.
When I first started we had to pave or even pay our own way through to State cup (which is now called “Super W”). However, I know that we are heading in the right direction in regards to this.
In terms of the Wallaroos; we always have flights and accommodation paid for but we still struggle because we were not fully contracted. Especially when knowing that the men’s and other countries are getting paid, there is definitely that lack of commitment to the women’s program.
We just need more development in skills and understanding the rules, quality coaches that understand women or even women teams. We are naturally strong people but we just need to stick to our strengths have an open mind and be willing to learn.
Our Pacific youths should always keep going with whatever you set your mind on and never give up on your dreams. Without goals you will not be able to achieve your dreams.
I think World Rugby is heading in the right direction, slow but steady. In a way it is good if they can just have more games scheduled so that more countries can get to play like how the 6 Nations (European countries) play.
(On England Rugby’s introduction of Maternity Cover) I think that is perfect because a lot of women still want to pursue their rugby career, but they have a family to look after. The new policies they have for women is great, because women need that support for sure.
I am currently retired and I am still involved in rugby. I am still playing for my local club, the Western Bulldogs in Brisbane and I am also pursuing a coaching career to stay in rugby. Not too sure what life after rugby is for me at the moment, still trying to figure that out.