We met Steph a few months back at a festival at Bury St Edmunds RFC where she kindly agreed to do an interview for BeRugby. After numerous emails and social media messages we finally met up in a little coffee shop in Chelmsford and got to chat.
Steph plays for England Deaf Rugby and Wymondham Ladies and she coaches at Bury St Edmonds RFC. She also plays numerous other sports, has two children Cobey and Bailey, and a job at a pre school near her. One busy rugby mum!
BeRugby Magazine – Great to meet you Steph. Let’s get straight to it. How did you get into rugby?
Steph Hanratty – I first started as the football season was finishing and I wanted something to keep me fit. A friend of mine said to come to rugby training so I thought I would give it a go. I was so nervous especially when my friend didn’t even turn up!
BRM – Do you still play any other sports as well as rugby?
SH – I still play football for Walsham le Willows. I used to play basketball for England Dev but had to give it up after I had surgery for a hole in my heart.
BRM – Wow, sorry to hear that. It doesn’t appear to have stopped you!
SH – Unfortunately I had to stop sport for 2 years but have played sport and kept fit ever since.
BRM – So how did you get into deaf rugby?
SH – I was chatting to my friend Sophie from BSE over dinner and she suggested it. I emailed Gina Iaquaniello (the team manager) and she invited me along to a session. That was January 2017 and I have been training and playing ever since. My first game was against Devon on Mother’s Day 2017.
BRM – A lot of people won’t have heard about England Deaf Rugby so can you tell us more?
SH – Most of us play for club sides and then meet up and train with the England deaf team once a month at Bromsgrove RFC in Birmingham. This month we are off to play in a deaf rugby 7’s tournament in Australia!
BRM – So you play in deaf and non-deaf teams. How does deaf rugby differ?
SH – Some would say being deaf would hold me back, but it doesn’t. It probably holds my non-deaf teammates back more when they struggle to communicate with me. Sometimes it’s my fault for not telling people straight away that I am deaf as it can be hard to tell. I am an excellent lip reader, so people may not notice straight away. My advice to any deaf readers is to just put your hand up straight away and say you are deaf and then your team mates and others know. Then just keep doing what you are doing as you are not different.
BRM – How does England deaf rugby compare with your club sides?
SH – They are all awesome, but the coaches at England Deaf do some things slightly differently. For instance, there is a sign language interpreter there and when the coaching team give talks they will get everyone in a horseshoe shape so that everyone can see them
BRM – What has been your favourite game to play in?
SH – Funnily enough it was probably my last counties game against Oxfordshire even though we lost! The vibe was great, and we just kept going. It was a close game, but our heads never went down. We didn’t give up and totally should have won.
BRM – Who is the best player you have played with or against.
SH – All the girls I play with are great, but Libby Lockwood is probably one of the best. I play with her at Wymondham. She is so versatile and can play anywhere from 8 to the centres. She reads the game well and gets loads of interceptions. Oh, and she is lovely!
BRM – Do you have any pre-match rituals?
SH – It’s not really a pre-match ritual but I have to wear odd socks. I can’t deal with matching pairs. I also listen to a lot of Blink 182 and my daughter Bailey comes to most of my games. She gives me great advice like “As long as you try your best its good enough for me. But if you score a try it will be better”
BRM – Awesome advice! What do you eat before a big game?
SH – I carb up the day before playing. Generally something like sweet potato and chicken. On the day I like peanut butter and banana on toast.
BRM – You are organising the club tour. Where do you go and why?
SH – Cornwall for the sun and the surf. Its also great fun and relaxed. Camping, rugby and BBQ’s what more do you need?
BRM – OK quick-fire round. Who is your favourite player?
SH – Brian O’Driscoll.
BRM – Favourite team?
SH – Saracens women.
BRM – Favourite food?
SH – Sweet potato chips.
BRM – Favourite band?
SH – Blink 182.
BRM – Favourite film?
SH – Pretty woman.
BRM – Favourite holiday?
SH – Any activity holiday. Biking, canyoning etc.
BRM – What one word would you use to describe rugby?
SH – Family.
BRM – Great thanks! Finally, what piece of advice would you give to our rugby mad readers?
SH – Always strive to be your best. If you are better at something than others in your team, help them improve and the whole team will benefit. The better a team player you are, the better a person you become.
Steph’s fact file
Born – 14th September 1982. Southwark in London.
Position – Wing/Outside Centre
Height – 1.58m
Weight – 59kg
Current teams – Wymondham RFC, Eastern Counties, England Deaf.
Many thanks to Steph for taking the time to chat to us. Since this interview she has gone on to win gold with the England Women’s Deaf Rugby Team at the first ever World Deaf Rugby Games in Australia! Huge congratulations to her and the rest of the team. England Deaf Men’s narrowly lost in the final but still took home the silver!