This month we got the fantastic opportunity to speak to Amy Humphries, Bedford Tigers RLFC women’s rugby player and part of the Rugby League Ireland squad, as well as Content Lead for Women’s Rugby for BallCarrier. The last few years have seen everything change for Amy, who has been able to leave her full-time job in healthcare to pursue her passion and a career in rugby. Amy herself is a fantastic player and an amazing advocate for women’s rugby.
In a Q&A style interview we got to know Amy better and find out more on women’s rugby and the impact that sponsors and social media have had on the sport.
First of all we’d love to know, why rugby? What was it about the sport that drew you to it?
I think growing up with ADHD, there was a big part of me that needed an outlet and a focus to channel that energy. At school, I struggled a lot academically, but when it came to sports I could just switch on. I felt really free when I was playing, it was something that I loved and I tried every sport. I did regional gymnastics and athletics, but struggled to commit and never felt crazy about it. But I remember being at school and our teacher introduced rugby for the first time in a session that was open to boys and girls. I was the only girl that turned up and I remember the specific moment where I got the ball and I dodged through all these guys and scored a try. I felt so good about that, like I'd found myself.
As I got older, about 12 or 14, I was in a county tournament at school and that was the first time I did full contact, and I felt that contact element was something I was missing from other sports, the excitement that there’s a risk element. But there weren't any clubs my age at the time so I just went back to other sports.
I was 16 when I joined my first women’s club, and from there rugby was just the main focus after that. It’s something that anyone can try without having to have a previous background in sport, and you can just turn up as you are. That’s the beauty of rugby, there is a position for everyone. That’s why I think rugby is what I stayed doing, so for someone who struggles with body image, rugby is somewhere you can feel completely yourself.
Do you remember the first instance where you heard about SAMURAI?
When I first joined the club, I didn’t have any kit and wasn’t sure what to wear for the first session, so I just put my gym stuff on. It wasn’t ideal - things were just getting ripped off me. So I thought, okay, the material isn’t great for this. Rugby players have a certain look, and I think if you feel that you look the part that you’ll play that like too. I looked around and thought ‘I want to look like them’, because when you’re new to a sport, you feel that if you look the part, then maybe you’ll feel more confident as well. So SAMURAI was one of the first brands that I associated with rugby. I’d seen the girls wearing it so I knew the logo and instantly remembered when I then went to buy my own stuff. It’s the first thing you think of.
For the first time in history, the Women’s Six Nations have a title partner in the colossal social networking app TikTok. What has this done for you, and what do you think this will do for women’s rugby and the impact it will have?
This is the first big sponsor for the Six Nations, and it’s a four year sponsorship as well, not just a one year deal, and TikTok have heavily invested in it, which just goes to show how much they believe the women’s sport is growing and that they’re looking at the long term and our potential. Since that sponsorship my whole career has taken off.
I started my TikTok channel two years ago in lockdown, just because I was bored and it was something fun that got me through it. I came across some other rugby girls that did the same things and I just found their content really relatable and funny. In the rugby world and community, there are so many jokes to relate to, so I started my own channel. When TikTok announced they were sponsoring the Six Nations, my followers doubled in like two months. There aren’t many female rugby content creators, but we’re fully invested and really pushing it, and they’ll be more in terms of players who are now on TikTok, and you'll start to see behind the scenes of like camp and things like that as well.
By sponsoring the game, people are more aware of the sport that maybe wouldn’t have normally come across rugby, or that weren’t fans of before. More brands are on board, so there’s potential for more finances or funding for players and creators like myself. Money is an issue for women’s sport and is something that needs to get better. Maybe not directly from the game, but being able to get sponsorship deals, and TikTok is helping to do that. Brands and companies are now looking at and covering women’s rugby and are starting to think about how they can invest. I was able to quit my job and be a full-time creator for the women’s game, which wouldn’t have been heard of before that TikTok sponsorship. So yes, I feel it had a massive impact. I think we changed the game.
You have an incredible social media presence and following, have you found having these social platforms have helped the popularity of women’s rugby, especially in terms of introducing new audiences and maybe the next generation of players?
Yeah, absolutely, because we are real people and we’re not paid to do it, we do it because we’re passionate about the game, so passionate we want to dedicate a whole page to it. I think a lot of people don't really understand the obsession with rugby until they start getting into the rugby community, then they see the respect people have for each other and how open it is to everyone.
It helped me connect with people that I would never have met before, including players and friends which is amazing. I get people that message me now for advice and to say they've been inspired and that’s why I do it. I don't do it because I want to be an influencer or be big or famous. I do it because of the women's sport industry and to get people into it. There was a girl who came up to me and said that she started playing again because of my TikTok, and now we're playing together for Ireland. It’s just incredible, I didn't realise that I'd be able to impact people at a higher level as well.
We’ve got a rugby creators group of six of us, and between us we’ve hosted web seminars for rugby clubs to learn how to use and utilise TikTok as well. We’re trying to inspire coaches, players and clubs to open up TikTok accounts and jump on trends, some of them even getting a million views, it's really nice to see.
What do you enjoy most about being part of the rugby space and community?
It's a very tight knit community and people always look out for eachother which I like. The women’s rugby world, even though it's one of the fastest growing sports, it's still kind of a small world. You’re not far from playing pro or potentially playing for england, and it’s quite exciting that it’s likely you’re going to meet an england player or a pro player whilst you’re training. They do so much outreach and I think that’s cool as it feels like the end is in sight and there’s not such a huge gap between us and them. I like that element of it, that we’re all in the game, together.
Also, I think body confidence is a huge thing for me. I’ve felt sometimes when I’ve taken up other sports that my fitness needs to be really good before I can start, or that I'm not going to be able to keep up with everyone, but, I feel like in rugby, you can literally come with no experience, be in any shape or size and there’s a position that will work for you on the pitch. That element is really accepting, and that’s why people say that it’s a very respectful sport. We’re all there for the same reason, and I think that shows in the audiences and the game as well.
We love having you as part of the SAMURAI Family. As part of our core values as a brand, courage is part of our culture and a belief that encourages us to push forward. What does courage mean to you?
I think courage is standing out and being different, despite the fear of what people might think of you or whether you’re doing the right thing or who you’re answering to. I think it's being unique and being different and not feeling that you’re being judged for that. It’s finding the courage to try new things; to step up and try new positions, a new sport.
Do you have any heroes or people you look up to?
Yes, Rocky Clark, she’s the most capped England player of all time with 137 cups. She’s also one of our coaches. She's got a lot of time for people and we’ve got a good friendship. She started when the game was completely unpaid, she was doing it just because it was a passion and she’s really seen the women’s game grow. She does coaching sessions and also goes out to schools to teach and get people into rugby from a young age, but she’s also an amazing player. She’s definitely someone I look up to.
In terms of players, Sam Monaghan, who plays second row for Ireland. I once got to present her player of the match award, my favourite player, it couldn’t have gone better. Since then she chats to me and I think that’s the difference with women's rugby to other sports, once you meet someone, they kind of just accept and embrace you and then you're sort of involved, which is nice. But she also carries really hard and she’s got really good offloads as well. She’s a great player and is constantly working hard.
I'd say, my dad is a role model for me as well. With my mental health, I have struggled with anxiety and depression and he's really pushed me through, he's very good at speaking about that kind of thing and encouraging me and he's someone I look up to. He's someone I have a bit of a safe place, safe space with, my support system. I think it's important that everyone has someone they can go to for support, whether its a friend, player or family.
Those are some of the people that inspire me the most. I think they understand that the women's game is going to take a lot of effort from women, but also recently, realising that having male allies is important as well for the women's game because they can have a voice in meetings or situations where we might not be heard or have the opportunity. We know it's ongoing, but the impact that has happened is so obvious to everyone. And I think that's the beauty of it, since the Six Nations has started, it’s completely changed the game at the moment for women's sport in general.
Do you have any words of advice for women who want to pursue a career in rugby?
Don’t worry about having any past experience, just come as you are. It doesn’t matter if you have no experience at all, as things that you see as flaws in yourself could be your greatest strength on the pitch. So, just give it a go, turn up, and surround yourself with people that you admire and want to be like as well. The community will help you move in the right direction.
Check out Amy’s TikTok for rugby content and to stay up to date on everything happening in the world of women’s rugby: