It took a move to Montpellier, France to re-ignite Grace Hamilton’s spark with Rugby Union, and boy is she back in love.
“I lost my dad a few years ago and he was the driving force around me playing and I felt like I had lost that spark,” Hamilton confessed.
“While I was continuing to play and loved it, there was always that missing little part. I knew I needed change and to meet different people and see how the rest of the world plays.”
Hamilton grew up in a self-described “rugby family” with weekends spent on the footy field, with her father John actively involved in the local rugby community. John was a huge figure in NSW country rugby and made an impact on many people across the state with his work ethic and passion for the game.
“I was always on the sidelines with my brother. My dad coached and refereed and did everything in our district, so we were always at the Rugby”.
Inevitably, the loss of her father had a profound impact on her and her love for the game and the 2019 Wallaroos player of the year was seeking a new challenge.
“It was time for change with a lot of things in my life. I was playing for the Tahs, I was playing for Australia, I played at the World Cup, and I felt like my game was plateauing a little bit whereas new opportunities obviously allow me to get better as a player.”
“I love learning about different people and cultures, and I always wanted to learn a different language, so my heart told me to go play in the South of France”.
Hamilton’s transition to French Rugby wasn’t the easiest one either, juggling new surroundings and a new style of rugby with only the most basic grasp of the language. Despite this, they always made her feel valued as a player and a person.
“I remember my first training session and they were all just speaking so quickly in French and it was funny because people would just look at me and I was just there with the biggest smile on my face not understanding it all at first” Hamilton tells me grinning.
“They were always asking how I was always smiling, and I guess I was just enjoying my experience”.
Hamilton certainly threw herself all in.
“I think it was the best thing for me to experience a completely different style of rugby. I played 7 over there, I played 8 and threw myself in different positions and the girls were awesome”, Hamilton said.
“They play such a different style of Rugby. It’s so fast paced, and they follow the momentum of the game. At the Tahs, we would spend two hours in a training session working on offloads, whereas we would never do that in France.
“I learned a lot regarding my game and how I can get the ball in space and different areas of the field.
Gamedays were almost the biggest shock to the system, with the loud and lively Waratahs changeroom a far cry from what she experienced at Montpellier
“They took their game days very seriously which I found very funny”, Hamilton remarked.
“In my first game, I was just smiling and very excited because at the Tahs we would always have music on, whereas they were completely in the zone, headphones in and all and it was a real shock to begin with”.
After a whirlwind trip, Hamilton is excited to be back with her Waratahs teammates and looking to take back the lessons she learnt in France while continuing to help drive the incredibly high standards the team sets.
“The Waratahs have always been a selfless team. We will always do what is good for the team, rather than individually, and it is something we will continue to instil because you have got to play for each other”.
“You literally put your body on the line for the other person, especially when you play for the Waratahs.”
Hamilton and her teammates will continue to put their bodies on the line this weekend as they face bitter rivals the QLD Reds who are fresh off a 20-10 win over the ACT Brumbies. Both teams are currently undefeated, and a win will almost certainly secure a place in the 2023 Builcorp Super W Grand Final.
The Waratahs top of the table clash against the Reds this Sunday at Concord Oval is free of charge.
NSW Waratahs v Queensland Reds
Sunday 16 April - Concord Oval, Sydney
Kick off 3:00pm AEST - Live on Stan Sport