Sophie Watkins is married to Leeds Rhinos captain and England Rugby League player Kallum Watkins. Here she blogs for Mummy Social about her experience of being a ‘rugby wife’ and trekking half way across the world, alone, with two children, to support him.
Kallum was selected to represent his country in the Rugby League World Cup in 2017. This was his second time playing in a World Cup since we’ve been together, but last time we had one child, and the World Cup was in the UK!
When Kal goes away to play for his country, it’s always bitter sweet for me. Sweet because even though I don’t really know the first thing about rugby, I know it is a huge deal and a massive honour. It also sounds pretty cool: ‘Yeah I’m alone with the kids because my husband is away playing in the World Cup!’ On the other hand, it’s bitter because we are without him for weeks, sometimes months at a time. Last year, the World Cup for me meant eight whole weeks alone without Kallum, and for our eldest, Andre, that meant a long long long long time without Dad. Kal is the ‘fun’ parent, the dragon-slaying, marvel watching, quavers for tea kind of parent (you know the one that your kids prefer!) So, for eight whole weeks, Andre, and baby Valentino, were left with Monster Mum.
Rugby League players aren’t like footballers. They don’t get paid huge amounts, they don’t get the same level of exposure as footballers, and therefore as a player’s family, we don’t have the same kind of opportunities. This means that most of the time stuff gets stuck on the credit card, and we deal with it later. After weeks of consideration, we decided that we would love to go and see Kallum in the World Cup. Most importantly, our baby Valentino was only six months old when Kal left the country for eight weeks, and I didn’t want Kal to miss out on seeing him grow and develop into a mini version of him. We managed to get a good deal on flights, and instead of taking our family holiday at the end of the season, we opted to go and support Daddy in Australia. It was also a big decision to make, as Andre had not long started Reception, so I had to make the decision as a Mum, what was more important, school work or life experience? It was a really tough call but I feel so lucky that we can give our children some of these amazing opportunities, while their Daddy is still in the height of his career, so off we went.
Most people looked at me like I was crazy when I said I was going to travel to the other side of the world with a four-year-old, and six-month-old baby, on my own. I had been asked several times if I was nervous about the flight, but in true Sophie Watkins style, I winged it. I rarely think about the future, I try to be in the moment and take it all in my stride and thankfully for me, the kids decided not to be little s**ts! Andre was happy watching the TV, and Tino slept most of the way. It wasn’t half as barbaric as I’d expected. (Usually when I take a trip alone with the kids, I need three bottles of wine to get over it, and that’s just to Asda!)
Kal had been over in Australia for a month before we got there and the moment we were reunited was something that I will treasure forever. Experiencing Australia together was priceless, a lot of our friends are Australian and it made me realise why they all can’t wait to get home, haha! Although our country has some great things to offer, Scarborough beach doesn’t quite compare. The fact that we got to the World Cup final was just amazing, most people had written off England before it had even begun, so to end up in the final was outstanding. I always joke about not being into rugby as a game, and not understanding what’s going on, but I always feel the emotion when Kal plays. When I see him standing in his England shirt belting out the national anthem, well, it’s given me goosebumps just writing about it. I am automatically filled with pride and emotion, he’s the most passionate person about his career that I’ve ever met and after seeing how much dedication and sacrifice he makes, he deserves all the glory of the number three England shirt! The score in the end was six nil to Australia. It was devastating, and I put my head in my hands to hide my tears once the final whistle went. We were so close.
When our time in Australia was over, I had to organise flights home for me and the kids. Kal was sat next to the I’m a Celebrity winner, Toff, sipping champagne in business class, and I was on a separate flight back with two jet lagged kids and zero extra leg-room. Safe to say, I was a tiny bit jealous.
Being part of a World Cup is the event that all sportspeople throughout the world play out of their skins for, year in, year out, to try and be recognised for a call up to the main event. It was an incredible opportunity as a family too, to be able to stand in the crowd and watch the person you adore living their dream. It makes the long flights, sacrifices, and time apart seem so unimportant. None of that even matters when the person you love is standing on the field in front of you, and you’re screaming their name.