From “rubber city” to Oamaru

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There are plenty of interesting characters in the North Otago women’s rugby team. One is Patsy Ford, the all-action American front-rower who has made quite an impact in her first season in Oamaru. Hayden Meikle talks to her.

How old are you, Patsy?
I’m 25.

Where is home?
I’m from Ohio, from the Akron area, but for the last year I have been living in Colorado. There’s a really big rugby club in Denver, the Glendale Raptors, so that’s why I moved there.

What is Akron famous for? I know basketball fans might know the answer to that.
Ha ha. Yes, that is exactly what I was going to say. LeBron James. But it’s also known as the rubber city. Goodyear is there. The Goodyear blimp. I went and did a quiz night at Fat Sally’s and that was one of the questions _ they had the Goodyear logo. I thought it was so obvious and that everybody would know, but I’m not sure they did.

When did you get into rugby?
I just started playing at high school, when I was 16. My school had a team, and my sister started playing, so I started the year after her.

Did you play any other sports?
I played volleyball and soccer, but they were nothing like rugby. I actually wanted to play [American] football when I was in middle school but they wouldn’t let me because I was a girl. Too much a of a liability to let a girl play against the boys, apparently. I was pretty happy to find rugby. I was completely hooked from the moment I tried it.

What positions have you played?
Prop, lock . . . I was eight man (No8) for a while. There was a season when I played first five, ha ha. I was just one of the more experienced players. And I do have some speed. I prefer lock, but coming out here, I wanted to focus on getting better at prop.

What level of rugby have you played back home?
The Raptors are in the Women’s Premier League, which is like the highest level of women’s club rugby you can play. There were eight teams last year but now they have added two. In our conference, it’s Denver, San Diego, Berkeley, Portland, and they just added North Shore, which is Chicago.
It’s pretty cool but there is a lot of travelling. The season starts on September 1, so I’ll go back and play there again.

How have you ended up in Oamaru?
I was talking to Shiloh (Kirsten Shalosky), who had played down here. I was looking at going to Canada, and Shiloh said I should go to New Zealand. She told me all about it and I was, like, “Yeah, why don’t I go to New Zealand?” There was definitely some culture shock. I’ve had to get used to the lifestyle. Everyone is very relaxed and laid-back. But I’m enjoying it.

The North Otago team is an interesting mix of cultures and ages. How have you found it?
I like it. I’m used to being on a team with people from all over the place.

Can you guys win this competition?
Yeah, I think so.
The tie we had with University gave us all a little more confidence.

What’s your life plan off the field?
Oh, man, I don’t know. I have a mathematics degree, and I was in engineering school for a little bit. I’ve thought about going back to that but I’m not sure.