Former NSW women’s rugby league representative Sandra Laughlin is proud to be making up for lost time, after putting her rugby league and rugby union careers on hold nine years ago.
Laughlin, a police officer with 22 years experience in the force, including 16 as a dog squad member, was proud to be named the inaugural captain of Australia’s first ever police women’s rugby union team late last month ahead of their clash with the Australian Defence Force in Canberra.
Even though they lost the match 39-10 to an experienced ADF team containing several Wallaroos but Laughlin and six of her teammates were named in a combined Australian Police-ADF merit team.
It’s been a wonderful year of rugby for the mobile flanker; as she also captained the Illawarra representative team to beat Hunter, who’d been the reigning NSW Country champions for the past 17 years.
Laughlin, who’s the Campbelltown club captain didn’t trial for the representative team, as she wanted to give the younger players an opportunity to develop as representative players.
Illawarra and former Wallaroos coach Paul Verrell had other ideas though and drafted her into the squad.
“Paul Verrell who’s over sighting the Australian police team and he was coaching the Illawarra rep team and I got a call from the manager saying Paul wants you to be in the team; we’ll see you Wednesday," Laughlin said.
“I was like I guess I’ll rock-up and the next thing I know he’s making me captain and to make it even better, we beat Hunter who have dominated for 17 years.
“Then the other week to captain the club team to beat Warringah 14-5 was awesome.
“We just did everything right and I was playing with a couple of legends in Mahalia Murphy and Atasi in the team," she said.
Laughlin’s made every post a winner in 2018, making up for lost time, as she’d been on the verge of representing the Jillaroos a decade ago, but unfortunately, a combination of an unsupportive partner and a busy work schedule put paid to those ambitions.
“Two thousand and eight was the year I made the Jillaroos squad and so one of the training sessions Karen Stuart (then Jillaroos coach) was going to take was at the National tournament leading up to State of Origin (Women’s Interstate Challenge) but that’s when I had the Kokoda track planned and you can’t just get someone to fill in for you and I said that to her straight up.
“Then when the Pope was coming I had to miss the training camp and it just became too much”, she said.
Laughlin was the trainer of the only high-risk dog in Australia and was essential to the Papal congregation’s security detail, as she was the first female to undertake Australia’s armed forces explosives course as a member of the police dog squad.
Adding to her dilemma was representative players back then had to pay for the honour to represent their state and country and she had to choose.
As impressive as she was as a player back then, she’s far more organised these days, dividing time between work, footy and her young children Rylee and Cooper’s needs with ease.
“I’m down to 56-57 kilos, so I’m playing a bit above my weight," she said.
“I’m fitter and trimmer now, I think being a single mum and working - my time management is better.
“To be honest when I train; I’ll train and I do the little extras at the end because I don’t know when I’m coming back.
“I look back when I was single (without kids) and I had all this time and you’d go to the gym.
“Yeah I think I’ll come again tomorrow and then the next day you’d turn-up, err, I’m free again tomorrow.”
Where she once procrastinated, her time management skills ensures she trains hard when she can.
“My time management has to be a lot better now and when I make it; I make it count," she said.
Later this year there’s a national police tournament in Wollongong; with all participating state players vying for spots on the national team to play at next year’s Police International rugby championship
Laughlin will be front and centre aged-40 and still going strong in Wollongong and she hopes to continue her good form in representing her country in Hong Kong next year.
Once finished with footy down the track and when her kids are old enough, she’d love to trek the Kokoda trail with them for her amazing seventh time.