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Emma Croker - More than an elite athlete

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With the 6Nations about to kick off at the weekend, the sports pages and television are full of talk about teams, players and analysis of the tournament.
As well as all of the usual articles I like to tell the stories behind the players that symbolise everything that is at the heart of women’s sport.

Emma Croker is a shining example of what so many women do around the world in sport at every level, each week. I caught up with her at the England camp
to chat about all things Rugby and the 6Nations. Its most probably best summed by Emma’s apology that she had to leave at a very specific time and
could not overrun. The reason, she had an event at the school she teaches at and needed to be there on time. This is a player that represents her country
at elite level, a World Cup winner, playing one of the most challenging sports there are and yet, she by day is a full time teacher. Not only this,
but she is bringing up her beautiful 4 year daughter as well and it is this sort of story that I first heard 15 years ago and made me want to know
more about more women’s sport.

Unlike the men’s game, women’s Rugby is in its infancy as far as professionalism goes and for the most part players representing their country are paid
little or nothing, this requires the women to work as well as be elite athletes. As Emma said to me “I left home at 4.30 this morning to train at Twickenham
before going to work, coming here and then back to school for a parents evening before going home to my daughter”. That is a commitment far about what
any of the men have to do to play for their countries and yet the training, travel and demands are no less. For me the question has always been why
do you do it? Why do women stretch out their days and find ways to make things work, all to represent their countries? If there was a way that I could
capture Emma’s expression as she explained why she makes such sacrifices. There was a glint in her eye and smile on her face as her whole demeanour
changed “putting that white shirt on and play for your country makes it all worth it” she explained. It’s a privilege to sit and listen to someone
like Emma talk about her life and share her passion.

For Emma there is no hesitation at getting up at 4.30 and it is this passion, pride and love of the sport that gives women’s sport something completely
unique. It is this that I love about women’s sport and I hope that as more money and big crowds come (which is great for the sports) sight isn’t lost
as to the roots of what makes women’s sport so great.

As we all sit down to watch Emma and the England team play Scotland on Friday night and the anthems rise, not only will they be standing in a line as elite
players but also as teachers, PT instructors and plumbers ready to give their all for their countries.