Her retirement interview with Stephen Jones (Who if nothing else has always supported Women's Rugby)
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/spor ... 1599364922
Danielle Waterman: The full back ‘who tried to take on the world’ calls time on her career
String of injuries forced Danielle Waterman to take toughest choice
Stephen Jones, Rugby Correspondent
Sunday September 06 2020, 12.01am, The Sunday Times
RICHARD POHLE/THE TIMES
Danielle Waterman, the greatest full back that rugby has seen, world champion with England and one of the signature figures of the boom years of the women’s game, today announces her retirement from playing. She has played her last for Wasps.
Waterman, 35, could no longer prepare as diligently as she once had and therefore did not want to continue. She had already called time on her England career, in which she played 82 times for her country. She is the most intense sportsperson I have met, and I have met a few. It is nothing overt. But it burns just below the surface. “I grew up with two brothers,” she said. “If I wanted to play then I had to be good enough, so we’d physically battle.”
Waterman stands at 5ft 4in, but she put the 2010 World Cup in England on the map with a thunderous hit on the Australia wing Nicole Beck, after which Beck landed in another postcode. While she was the ultimate team player, she also had a glorious, box-office ability to go off message. After the World Cup semi-final in Paris in 2014, when England had beaten Ireland, I asked Gary Street, the head coach, if he felt Waterman had played a little too much attacking rugby considering the magnitude of the occasion?
“Maybe,” Street said. “But what can you do? Why would I tell Nolli to do anything different?” These are the words of the wisest of coaches, on the finest of players.
“It was my nature, and maybe I overplayed and tried to take on the world,” Waterman said. “But I also loved the tactical side, unpicking an opposing team over 80 minutes, working out their attacking strategies and their defensive structures.”
She has been in a few dark places. The reconstructions, broken bones, the time she ruptured a tendon in her toe when dropping a pair of scissors. Injury took its toll, physically and mentally. Before a match at Twickenham against Canada, having just come back from one of her worst injuries, she was passed fit but was in floods of tears in the dressing room. All the stress of lonely rehab spilt out, further pressure came from her implacable devotion to coming back better than before. She could not bear anyone
saying that she had declined as a player.
“Physically I had been able to do all the rehab but mentally I was probably three or four months behind my body,” she said. “I had to remove myself from the dressing room. Rick Porter, our physio, eventually managed to calm me. He gave me a ten-second countdown. As he began the count, he said that I was going to be fine, that I’d trained well and that; when he got to one, I was going to be a rugby player about to play a stormer.”
She had to rehab like mad, often on her own at Bisham Abbey, to be fit for the 2016 Olympics, suffered depression and anxiety as the Games neared, and indeed, spoke bravely in support of the Rugby Players Association “Lift the Weight” campaign, aimed at the mental problems multiplying in the sport.
Waterman made Rio but she never enjoyed it. “I wasn’t at a peak mentally and I felt really lonely in the team, I didn’t really agree with the culture. I’m also frustrated how I behaved at certain times on the trip.” The other painful career disappointment is obvious. England were flying during the 2017 World Cup in Ireland. “In the first half of the semi-final against France, I took what seemed an innocuous hit on the jaw.
“I was expecting a head injury test prior to possibly going back on but the doctor decided on an immediate removal. She said it was ataxia, which is when you stumble, and I had actually stumbled three times.
“It was only afterwards when it hit me. I had to go into the concussion protocol, which dictates a six-day stand-down and the tournament final was four days away.”
Then came the extra blows. She was told that she had to leave the team and her accreditation was taken away. She was even told by Nicky Ponsford of the RFU that she should not be on the touchline at training in case cameras picked her up. Petty does not describe it properly.
She realises that intensity, frustration and emotion went hand in hand and that she needed back-up. Her parents, Sue and Jim, the grand old Bath full back, were mighty supporters, so too were many team-mates — she treasured her players’ player of the season awards above all others.
“I had fantastic coaches and mentors like Susie Appleby [now of Exeter] and the Giselle Pragnell [of Wasps]. I also grew up with some of the most incredible players, like Georgia Stevens and Liza Burgess, they were just tough women, they would knock flipping hell out of each other.
Bewilderingly, others were not so sympathetic. She expected nothing, but it is still amazing how Twickenham marked her retirement after such a glittering career. “I got nothing when I retired from England, I didn’t get an email from the RFU, I got nothing from Nicky Ponsford.
“One summer I’d gone to Devon and worked in a garage and when I left, I was given a card and a box of chocolates to say thank you. That was more than I got for playing for England.”
Perhaps Waterman’s mistake has been to be too good and too high in profile. Sometimes, rugby chills the blood.
And as for relaxing into retirement: she is an ambassador for HSBC, Guinness and Gallagher, she has her own podcast, she has already broadcast for ITV, BBC and Channel 4 and is now working towards a Level 4 coaching certificate.
Waterman still has the golden touch. Simone Moretti, her boyfriend, plays for a team of former firefighters in Italy called the Cavaliers.
“He was going over to China to play in the world firefighters and police Games for his over-35 team and I was supposed to be going over to make my debut as a WAG.”
But when the coach of the main Italian team could not travel, Waterman was asked to coach them in the main tournament. “They were incredibly welcoming and respectful, the boys were overwhelmed that someone with my rugby CV was coaching them and I was overwhelmed I was coaching this men’s team into a competition.”
They won gold. Of course they did.
The passion in her stays strong. When you are as driven as Danielle Waterman, it makes it so difficult to settle for anything bar perfection. But that also takes you dramatically close to it.