Sarina Clark (formerly Sarina Fiso) is one of the best female rugby league players ever to come out of New Zealand. Last year, ahead of the birth of her third child, she stepped aside from the game, and with that the curtain on a spectacular career appeared to come down.
Fast forward a few months and she was back on the field, not just helping Manurewa to an Auckland title, but earning a place in the inaugural New Zealand Warriors squad for the NRL Women’s Premiership. Here’s our chat with Clark on the season that was.
2018 was quite the year for you! Talk us through it, Sarina.
It was tough, but I really enjoyed it. It was amazing to be among the first players to take part in the NRL women’s comp and to be a trailblazer. It wasn’t something that I imagined was going to happen. I was pregnant at the time the competition was announced, so I had basically just counted myself out.
But with a bit of hard work and the right support behind me, it soon became a reality for me.
How soon after giving birth did you start eyeing a return to the field?
Baby was two months when I returned to club and after that first game back, that was when I realised that maybe I could do this. I didn’t think I would play as well as I did, and with each game I got better and better. By the fourth game, it was the Grand Final, and straight after that I got the call from the Warriors.
I have three kids, but this was the first time I decided to come back early. I was really nervous in that first game. But he was a very content baby, so I got back into base fitness just a few weeks after having him. I’d feed him, then we would go out tot the garage and I’d run on the treadmill while he slept.
I actually got asked to play a month after the birth, but I said no. I knew my body and it wasn’t going to happen.
What were the main things you noticed were different in your game post-baby this time around?
Probably being physically capable. It is physically demanding and after having a baby it is a lot harder, because your head says one thing and your body says another. So it’s making sure those two things are talking to each other.
I wasn’t the same person coming back. I didn’t have the top-end speed I would normally have, so it was looking at other areas to improve in and get better at.
You waited your entire career for a meaningful NRL-backed women’s competition… that announcement came in the same year you had a baby. Was that hard to stomach at first, when you thought you wouldn’t be able to play?
Yeah, yeah it was. I really didn’t think I’d return in time, and I was little bit hurt. That competition was a dream come true, that one day you could be running out there and playing in these amazing stadiums.
And how was that experience in the NRL Women’s Premiership?
I think it was exactly what I thought it would be like. Even the travelling, because I had always wondered what it was like, and I actually really enjoyed that part.
I think we all were under the same thinking – that it was out of this world – and it definitely was. Seeing NRL teams around with us, being treated like superstars
If all goes to plan, will you play again in 2019?
I’d love to. I really enjoyed what I did this year. I had no intentions or goals, I just wanted to enjoy it. I am hoping to do the same thing next year, and if my body wants to, I’ll keep going.