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Straight outta Temuka . . . Georgie McCullough is enjoying new opportunities in North Otago. PHOTO: HAYDEN MEIKLE

Georgie McCullough is a new face at the North Otago Rugby Football Union, and is a talented member of the North Otago women’s team. Hayden Meikle tracks her down for a chat.

Q How old are you, Georgie?
I’m 26.

Q What’s your background? Where are you from?
I’m from Temuka. Born and bred up there. I went to Opihi College.

Q Was rugby always a part of your life?
I only started playing it at high school. I played three years at school and had one year off for knee surgery. After school, I had a couple of gap years, and I played sevens for South Canterbury. Then I went to uni in Dunedin. I played hockey my first two years down there and rugby for two years after that.

Q Who did you play rugby for in Dunedin?
Otago University. And I made the Spirit both years. I played three games my first season then got concussed. Last year, I played four or five games. Then I went travelling and ended up in Spain with my partner, Sam. I ended up playing for the girls team at his club. That was interesting.

Q Did you always intend to play for the North Otago team this year?
Not really. I’ve had two knee surgeries, and I’ve torn my ACL a third time. I played my last season in Dunedin with basically no ACL. So I hadn’t done much since I got back from overseas, and I didn’t know if I’d be fit enough to play. We’ve got quite a few young players but we’re going pretty well. There’s some good talent in there.

Q Women’s rugby in general seems to be riding a wave. Is that fair to say?
It’s all positive, the direction women’s rugby is going. It’s promoted a lot more. People actually get to see women’s rugby on TV now. At high school, some people didn’t even know who the Black Ferns were. Now you can watch them, and you’ve got contracted players. It’s great. Rugby is another sport women and girls can play now.

Q Do you still have ambitions at the higher level?
I would be happy to make the Spirit again. But I’m more playing for enjoyment now, and to meet new people. Sport is a great way to meet people with similar interests. But I’m probably getting too old to make the Black Ferns, ha ha.

Q How have you ended up in this role at the North Otago union?
I was working up at Temuka Seed. It was kind of only meant to be a couple of days but I ended up there for five months. Sam’s mum actually sent me through the newspaper ad for the union job, so I thought I’d apply and see what happened.

Q What exactly is your job?
I’m club liaison and women’s development officer. But I’ve got a lot of other bits and bobs that I’m doing. At the moment, I’m busy keeping up to date with scorecards, doing team lists and programmes, and starting some schoolgirl rugby stuff.

Q What is your early impression of men’s rugby in North Otago?
I only really watched my first proper game last week. I haven’t had too much time to actually look into it. So I can’t really say too much at this point. I’m going to start looking at promoting things like the club environment a bit more, and potentially running an awards evening for all the clubs so everyone can come together. But they’re just ideas at this stage.

Q You have a bit of a vested interest in Valley’s fortunes as your partner, Sam Sturgess, plays for the club. Is life all about rugby in your household?
Hah, no. Currently we’re dealing with a dog issue.

Q Any other family members involved with rugby?
One of my sisters – I’ve got three older sisters and a younger brother – is actually working as a physio for the Glasgow Warriors. She’s a good contact to have. My dad played rugby for Pleasant Point and my sisters all played, but our main sport was hockey. My brother, Jock, was in the Waitaki Boys’ First XV until he broke his neck in a swimming accident in a river. He gets a bit of a limp when he gets tired but he’s doing well. He’s a very lucky boy.