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Crane driver, trail blazer: Lavinia takes path less travelled

Leading into the 2021 Telstra Women’s Premiership there has been plenty of focus on Brisbane's ability to retain key talent like rep stars Ali Brigginshaw, Millie Boyle, Tarryn Aiken and Tamika Upton.

One signing that has flown under the radar is Lavinia Gould, who in her fourth season at the club proves that age is no barrier when it comes to playing the sport you love.

But being one of the oldest women to compete in the NRLW this year doesn’t bother Gould.

"I am so stubborn in what I want and what I want is to play footy," the veteran said.

"My passion is huge and I have always said if the body is willing, then why not."

For Gould, the key is working with her body to understand what she is physically capable of doing and making sure she trains to be physically ready to play rugby league week in, week out.

Gould chances her arm on the last

"I put in a lot of work to still be out there competing against some women who are half my age," she said.

"My load is nowhere near the load of some of the other players, but that’s OK because my focus is making sure I am strong for the games on the weekend.

"It took me some time to admit I was getting older, but once you accept that you start to change your approach, recognise that each year is different and respecting what you can and can’t do, physically."

Broncos hooker Lavinia Gould was at her scheming best in the 2019 NRLW decider.
Broncos hooker Lavinia Gould was at her scheming best in the 2019 NRLW decider. ©Nathan Hopkins/NRL Photos

Sport has always been a big part of Gould’s life. Growing up in New Zealand she played provincial rugby union and at just 17 years old was part of the first official New Zealand women's sevens team.

She also played for the Queensland Reds in the Super W prior to signing with the Broncos.

Gould has continued to play sport throughout the key stages in her life, including when she had children.

"I became a mother quite young and I was always of the mindset that being a mum doesn’t change the fact that you may want to play sport or have another hobby and the same goes for as you get older."

"If you want to play and your passion is there, then why not? If you are a mum and have a passion for sport, I encourage you to keep at it - whether you want to give birth and then come back to sport a year later or if you have kids that are a bit older."

The focus on supporting female athletes if they make a decision to give birth is something that has been given additional focus by a variety of sports in recent years.

In 2019 Cricket Australia announced a parental leave policy, followed by Super Netball in 2021.

Several athletes in contact sports have also made the decision to return to sport after giving birth. Emilee Cherry returned to the Australian womens sevens rugby team after giving birth to baby Alice and in rugby league, Samantha Bremner returned to the Australian Jillaroos after giving birth to baby Reef.

Never take no for an answer - if you want it bad enough, you’ll make it.

Lavinia Gould

After returning to the NRLW, Bremner is also taking time off now to give birth to her second child.

Increasingly, sports are turning their minds to supporting female athletes during this stage.

For Gould this is something the Broncos have also done exceptionally well.

It isn’t just about supporting the athlete to return, but ensuring the environment is one in which the athlete wants to return.

"There is a different approach taken for the women’s team and family has been incorporated into our program," she said.

"We all get around the women with kids, we support kids to be at training and accommodate them as much as we can.

"It makes life a hell of a lot easier for mums to bring kids along when they can."

Gould hopes these players can be role models for younger women.

Broncos hooker Lavinia Gould.
Broncos hooker Lavinia Gould. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

"I know a couple of older women who have decided they want to come back and play because I am still out there," Gould said.

"That is what I want to see and what I want to give back to the game. I also love to hear my kids say 'wow, my mum is still playing'."

But the footy field isn’t the only place where she is breaking down barriers.

Gould is a crane driver at a steel factory. Her day begins at 2am. When she isn’t playing footy. she will do a 12-hour shift before heading home to see her family and her daughters.

During the NRLW this will likely change to a six- to eight-hour shift so she can see her family before going to training.

Working in a traditionally male environment is just another opportunity for Gould to push the boundaries.

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"I like to take the path less travelled for women so it is all about breaking barriers, opening doors and inspiring girls," she said.

"I don’t think women should be held back in any part of their life and little girls should grow up knowing that they can do anything they like.

"Never take no for an answer - if you want it bad enough, you’ll make it."

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