It’s a journey that began at the infancy of the professional era, and culminated in two decades of service to a game she loves.
Starting with the club in 1999 during the Super 12 era, Sharron Flahive went onto become the NSW Waratahs longest-serving member of staff until her departure at the end of the 2019 season.
Adored by coaches, players and administrators alike, the Chief Medical Officer has seen the world of rugby change in front of her very eyes.
“Now I look back I start to see the journey of players who worked their way through the Academy, became Waratahs, Wallabies and since then have gone onto become fathers, coaches and administrators,” Flahhive said.
Sharron has been party to the pure joy of victory and bitterness of defeat, there every step of the way with the players who’ve represent NSW on an international stage.
“The opportunity to work with a team like this is an opportunity to experience a little bit of those highs and lows [that players go through].”
She recalls the comradery at training and on tour, something that’s hard to replicate in any other environment.
“My journey is absolutely littered with hilarious stories about the things that both players and management have done along the way.”
Sharron’s role saw her spend much of her time with players navigating the cutthroat nature of professional sport as they fought their way back from varying injuries.
She recounts the challenges of supporting players through extended time on the sideline, being a motivating voice in the rehab room.
“I often find that the saddest thing, I can think of a couple of occasions where a player had been out of the game for a number of months with an ACL. Within a month or so [of returning] they rupture the ligament in their other knee,” Flahive said.
It saw her work extensively with many of the state’s forgotten players – those cut down by injury before their time – unable to push their stubborn bodies where their mind was willing to go.
“The newspapers will tell the story of those who are the most famous or at the highest level, but sometimes there’s a lot to be said for the person who doesn’t make it.”
Those feelings of disappointment and frustration are juxtaposed with the sweetness of success.
Across her career, Sharron has been apart of some 250 caps, three Super Rugby finals (05’, 08’ and ’14) and one very memorable title.
“In reflecting on that [winning in 2014] for someone like me, who’d been there a long time it was more than just a moment in time.
“I remember at the moment [after the siren] turning around and there were two or three faces I remember seeing – Nathan Grey and Al Baxter – and just the emotion on their faces was as though everything that had gone before was worthy [because of the win].”
But as with all forms of professional sport, whether your campaign is lined with failure of success there’s only one thing to do at season’s end – start again.
“As soon as the competition finishes, you hit the reset button for the following year and spend the rest of the year planning for the next.
“Most of us live in this world where we build to Christmas and New Year and reset in January.
“For the last twenty years, my whole life has been committed to that reset button at the end of Super Rugby and planning for victory the following year.”
Now Sharron moves onto different pursuits, finding her way back to where her career began – women’s rugby – as the Chief Medical Officer for the Wallaroos.
She’s also been appointed to the International Rugby Players Association Board where she can pursue her interests in mental health and injury prevention.
“It was an incredibly tough decision to leave the Waratahs, it’s been part of my family for 20 years.
“For me I’ve finished in that particular role, but in closing that door some others have opened for me.”
A wonderful servant to rugby in NSW who will be sorely missed at the Waratahs.