French paradox contributes to athletes’ success in France as portion size is key

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Photo by Caroline Layt of Australian teammate Janet Naylon looking at those lovely French pastries and desserts through the window of a local patisserie in Clermont-Ferrand

By Caroline Layt
October 18, 2017

It was a great evening in Clermont-Ferrand, France. I had made my first finals at world masters championships level in the hammer and weight throws and had ran well in my 60 metre heat, setting a season’s best – 8.96 seconds in qualifying for the semi-finals.

My track buddies had also done well in their events, so a few of us decided to go out and celebrate. When in Rome, do as the romans do, or in this instance substitute roman for french, so where else, but off to a French restaurant.

The main course was lovely and the French wine I allowed myself went down a treat at the restaurant titled 1492 – the same year the building was constructed which housed the restaurant.

After mains fellow sprinter Janet and distance runners Stuart and John decided to have dessert.

When training for major athletics championships such as a world championships, much effort goes into preparation and dessert, chocolate and all good things in life are either banished or consumed in much smaller quantities.

Dessert was the priority after being disciplined for so long and our anticipation was at boiling point. I chose crepes with rich vanilla ice cream wrapped and sealed inside. A lovely warm fudge chocolate sauce generously sat atop the crepes.

I enjoyed my dessert immensely and still remember it as one of my most enjoyable dining experiences to this day.

My and other peoples’ experiences of the French diet is what makes it so interesting, as they have croissants and baguettes as part of their breakfast menu. They are world renowned for their rich cuisine and yet so many French people are svelte and France has the lowest obesity rates among the western world.

The French diet does have its extravagances, but what it does do well is that all food groups are covered and portions are small, unlike the American larger portioned diet.

According to NDTV Smart Cooky: people in France tend to savour their meals and studies have shown that eating fast may lead to eating more as it takes about 15 minutes for your brain to recognise your stomach is full. This means the French penchant for eating slowly can prevent overeating.

French people tend not to eat to excess, which brings us to – the French paradox – the only western country known for the butter in its pastry crust and the thin citizens who consume it.

Visitors have wondered how the French do it, while they force themselves to sweat away working out or deprive themselves of the simple pleasures in life to maintain their svelte figure. There are no such requirements for French women, as the media and popular culture has played its part where it is not seen as sinful to eat and drink delicacies such as cheese, wine and chocolates.

The media and popular culture portrayal of French culture

Women eating the above type of foods is not seen as indulgent, but as a right. As an article in Vogue magazine written by Ashley Schneider states, “Dignity and mystique cloak the French woman, as she savors her steak-frites. There are no food items banned from her palate, no sinful dishes demanding a stiff workout hours later. Instead she abides by a simple, natural set of guidelines. Ones that understand true pleasure.”

French women choose quality over quantity and the ingredients are always second to none, e.g. a few pieces of quality dark chocolate is chosen over a large bowl of ice cream.

Emilia Petrarca wrote in W Magazine, “Such is the root of the “French girl myth” which has captured the imaginations of fashion publications, brands, and popular culture writ large ever since the days of Coco Chanel, and maybe even as far back as Marie Antoinette. We find ourselves wanting to do everything “like a French girl”, simply because there is a way French girls do things.

Through French fashion icons and actors like Brigitte Bardot and Francoise Hardy and the movies that made them famous – An American in Paris and Amelie, American women see their French counterparts as having the “innate ability to possess superior style, smaller waists, clearer skin, more complex neckties, cooler social lives, and richer romance than the rest of us-and all the while putting in little to no effort”, she writes.

In essence Petrarca feels American media and popular culture like it that way. Americans feel they are free and yet they still crave to be told what to eat and how to dress and this is what makes the French way so appealing; due to their living by a different set of rules.

The French diet and way of life will always be present, as the media through articles such as those above and popular culture remain fascinated with all things French.

The Aussie silver bullets and French team certainly benefitted from the French diet

As for our 4 x 200 metre relay team – nicknamed the silver bullets in setting an Australian open indoor record 1.49.98 at those 2008 championships. We bought into local culture, food and way of life and it certainly didn’t do us any harm while we were in France in winning that silver medal and setting our new aussie record.

As well as we did, the French diet certainly didn’t hurt the French team, as they did one better – world champions with a newly minted gold medal.

Photo below by Stuart Paterson – Women’s 40 years 4 x 200 metre relay team medallists: France, Australia and Germany, WMACI Clermont-Ferrand, March 2008. Silver medal Australian team back row: L to R Caroline Layt, Jackie Bezuidenhout, front row Marie Kay and Janet Naylon (AR)

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Hannah Mounsey – out and out discrimination – AFLW Draft

My Sydney and NSW representative jumpers and trophy and medal collection won playing women’s rugby league and union when my trans status was hidden:

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My collection of trophies and representative jerseys once my transgender status was known:

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Hannah Mounsey, you are not alone. I was discriminated against as well playing the codes I love 🏉

Let’s raise a collection to fund Hannah’s legal bills in fighting AFL’s bigoted decision.

Reporting Government and Institutions Assignment 1 – Local Government Story Blacktown City Council’s 2036 strategic plan

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Photos by Caroline Layt at Rouse Hill

October 11, 2017
Caroline Layt

Blacktown City Council has developed a strategic plan to cope with the state government’s directive to accommodate a larger population within its boundaries by 2036.

Blacktown’s mayor Stephen Bali says development of its CBD into high rise and semi-rural areas into suburbia within council boundaries is due to Sydney’s expanding population growth, which is fuelling the local economy with construction of new buildings, schools and shopping areas.

Mr Bali told Hatch, “Firstly the NSW state government has given a directive of increasing population in the Sydney basin.

“The State government expects Blacktown City population to exceed 520,000 by 2036.

“Blacktown City has been one of the fastest population growth centres in Australia for the past four decades.

“The local government responsibility is to see how we can manage it within the financial constraints we have.

He believes people have been accepting of the change from semi-rural to a suburban environment. Key concerns he pointed out is getting the infrastructure right; ie roads, schools, community centres, sporting facilities, etc, so as to make our great city a sustainable liveable city.

“In general, Blacktown City’s economy is approx. $16 billion and growing approx. 4% p.a. With some 120,000 jobs” he said.

In the Blacktown City Council strategic plan he explains further, “The release of land for development in our strategic plan our “Blacktown 2036” follows a program of extensive community engagement… it is not a council plan, rather it is your plan: shaped by the community and reflecting it’s opinions.

“It outlines how we will keep working to plan for our sustainability into the future.”

A recent poll was conducted by Fairfax Media and according to an article published in news.com.au 66.4 per cent of people surveyed have a contrary view and think the city is full.

They’d prefer development is pushed to the city’s fringes, as they fear overcrowding and lack of infrastructure.

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Sandra Layt, a former secretary of the Hawkesbury Chamber of Commerce, fashion designer and pioneer of the turf industry during the 1970s has a similar view with those people surveyed.

Her rental property at Rouse Hill is less than one kilometre away from the near completed Cudgegong Station, which is the central hub of the Skytrain network.

Ms Layt told Hatch, “With all of the development going on, average Australians are struggling to buy properties and homes, simply because greedy developers and investment buyers are pricing them out of the marketplace through their collusion with state government and local councils and their policies.

“We’re losing our cultural identity.

“We were once a land of opportunity, but it’s becoming more difficult for people to start up from nothing like my generation (the baby boomers) did after the second world.

“It’s becoming clear now and in the future many people will simply exist with lack of opportunity and people don’t want that for their kids and future generations, hence the majority support (of the news poll survey) to halt future development.”

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Penrith Panthers – Mountain men or chocolate soldiers?

July 25, 2017

As the sun glistens on a warm winter’s afternoon at Pepper Stadium at the foot of the Blue Mountains, the crowd is slowly building in anticipation of today’s first grade match between the Penrith Panthers and Manly Sea Eagles.

Being a home game, the crowd is predominantly decked out in Panthers supporters gear, which has had various changes in jersey design and colour schemes over the years from the chocolate soldiers of the 1970s and the licorice all sorts colours from their 1991 premiership year … to today’s jerseys. All mentioned are popular among the Panthers faithful.

The club has a very loyal following, but fans are often left disappointed, because the team is inconsistent – a problem summed up by the two nicknames they’ve acquired over the years: the Mountain Men and Chocolate Soldiers; due to their predominantly chocolate brown strip of the 1970s and ‘80s.

Hopes are high this year, as they were one match away from qualifying for the grand final last season and on the back of that promise… they were installed as joint competition favourites alongside the highly fancied Melbourne Storm and the Canberra Raiders for the 2017 season.

Despite the lofty expectations, they have failed thus far to consistently deliver on the paddock and the scoreboard.

Today they play the Manly Sea Eagles and unfolding on the field is the curtain-raiser, the Holden Cup fixture – a sponsored name for the youth competition, which is full of tomorrow’s rising stars. The young Panthers eventually lose the match 22-14 in a tight tussle to Manly.

The Holden Cup loss mirrors the 2017 first grade Panthers season. They have had several close losses, which has contributed to an inconsistent season. This is despite the Panthers having several Australian and NSW representatives in their squad and having being installed as joint competition favourites at the start of the year. Unfortunately, though, the Panthers have failed to live up to the hype and expectation placed upon them.

Real Sport editor, rugby league expert and podcast host of ‘Panthers Weekly with Strawbs & Teach’ Daniel Lang is a Panthers fan and he was asked for his thoughts on why the Panthers have struggled for consistency during the 2017 season?

Lang told Hatch, “I think the pre-season expectations from outside the club were a bit too high, particularly with two young halves (Matt Moylan and Ivan Cleary) running the show and a few boys have read their own headlines and believed the hype a bit too much as well.”

Lang also indicated the young halves would take time to gel, as they have been inconsistent, flashing their skill set some weeks and then being too introverted other weeks in not closing those matches out.

This season appears to mirror the Panthers early existence, as they have struggled for consistency. The western Sydney club has qualified for the finals series just 11 times during their 50 years. This statistic wasn’t helped by the fact Penrith was seen as an outpost of Sydney until the mid 1980s, which made it difficult to attract players.

Their first final series during the 1985 season was eighteen years in the making after they entered the competition during the 1967 season.

Since then, the Panthers have won two premierships – 1991 and 2003. They have qualified for the final series on eight other occasions. Due to their success, they are now known as the mountain men.

They are rarely seen as melting chocolate soldiers these days, but they were during their formative years of the 1970s. The tag was given to them by radio commentator Frank Hyde as a compliment, due to their chocolate brown jersey and the fact they played so hard that day “they didn’t melt like chocolate soldiers’.

Unfortunately it appears some unkind rival fans hijacked the term and used it whenever the Panthers didn’t play so well and they were thrashed on the scoreboard.

Jon Burndred was interviewed a week after the Manly match at the TAB betting agency, which is located in the bowels of Panthers. He is a lifelong local and Panthers fan.

Burndred said supporting the Panthers is a way of life for him and his friends. He mentioned some were away when he spoke to Hatch, as they had headed to Auckland to watch the game against the New Zealand Warriors the day before. He said, “They’d be here now if they weren’t away in New Zealand following the team.”

He has some fond memories of his own following Penrith, as he headed in on one of the few hundred supporters buses from Panthers to Homebush to watch the 2003 NRL grand final.

It was a triumphant day, as he drank champagne with the players in the function room afterwards. He had previously seen club legends like Greg Alexander, Royce Simmons, Mark Geyer, John Cartwright, Brad Izzard and their teammates win in ‘91 when he was nine, but the 2003 win was extra special, as he celebrated with the players – Craig Gower, Luke Lewis, Luke Rooney and Ryan Girdler and the rest of the squad.

Dave Watts is also a lifelong Panthers fan. He is also head of Telecommunications and Infrastructure at channel 7 and will be instrumental in the Rugby League World Cup broadcast in Australia.

Watts represented the Panthers as a 15-year-old-hooker in their junior underage teams during the 1980s before life, reality and work took over. He’s a little disappointed, along with wife Gabi that their team hadn’t been travelling as well as they had hoped at the start of the season.

Gabi, a schoolteacher by trade, is not immune to sporting success herself. She won the throws pentathlon gold medal, along with bronze in the shot put at the 2015 World Masters Athletics Championships in Lyon, France.

She said, “The whole family including sons Kurt and Jarryd support the Panthers, as we are proud locals. They can be frustrating to watch, as they can be inconsistent, but they are our team.

We’ll support them win, lose or draw. It’s the one thing we all love to do together as a family and season ticket holders. Kurt and Jarryd both attended St. Dominic’s College, one of the feeder schools for the Panthers.

Kurt went to school with Panthers winger Dallin Watene-Jelezniak, so there is a bond in knowing some of the players as well” Gabi explains.

During the first grade match, Kurt is disappointed with some of the refereeing decisions and shouts out “why” when a contentious decision goes against his team.

The Panthers end up with an 8-2 penalty count, as Ivan Cleary extends their lead 16-8 by way of a penalty goal. The Panthers take home the two points on the day and a week later they beat the New Zealand Warriors. They have now won the last five from seven matches and are only two points out of the top 8.

Lang, Burndred, the Watts family and Panthers fans everywhere can dare to dream and time will tell if the 2017 Panthers – their tribe – can once again become the mountain men they are now known as or whether their season fizzles out.

Whatever the verdict, it won’t be for lack of trying, as they emulate all of those hard working Panthers who have come before including the much maligned 1970s “Chocolate Soldier” Panthers players who did have very tough work and training ethics.

A transgender sportswoman’s take on Sam Newman and his ilks’ rants against Caitlyn Jenner and all things trans

Hearing about Sam Newman’s rant a fortnight ago where he demonised Caitlyn Jenner by referring to her as an ‘it’ on the AFL Footy Show highlights how far society has come and still has to go before transphobic comments disappear from sports shows and the like forever.

We have made progress, as people are now airing their disgust and calling out these narrow minded and blinkered views such as Newman’s for what they are. That is progress in itself.

What Newman said reminded me of a TV host who said disparaging remarks about transgender people playing women’s state of origin (women’s interstate rugby league challenge) almost a decade ago.

I sat there gobsmacked, as I watched the rugby league expert negatively critique Amelie Mauresmo by calling her transgender, while she played tennis on the APT circuit. He followed that up with, “That’s all we need is more transgenders like Mauresmo playing women’s State of Origin rugby league.”

My ears pricked up as I watched – disbelieving at the audacity of this fellow… Mauresmo is not even transgender, but he was in full swing, as the audience laughed along at his cheap shot … my shoulders slumped, as I realised he was not only talking about Mauresmo, but also me.

I felt terrible, as I was still in the closet, although I had transitioned some 15 years before. My whole reason of being able to represent New South Wales in rugby league and Sydney in rugby union was the fact I had kept my transgender status quiet.

More honours would have adorned if I wasn’t clumsy and self disclosed to someone whom I thought was an ally at the time.

When I first returned to sport post-transition (which by the way included hormone therapy, psychiatry sessions and surgery) after passing my gender tests, I had to keep my trans status hidden.

I was immediately cleared to compete against other women in sport as a masters track and field athlete, as I was found to have no advantage playing women’s sport.

Less than a year later I wanted a new challenge, so I decided to play rugby union, a decade after I had last played as a male athlete.

When I informed my club coach I was transgender, he told me to keep my mouth shut or I would never be selected in representative teams, despite being cleared by Athletics NSW to compete.

My test results after my max vo2 test (35.5 mlo2) were well within the female range. The tests were conducted by sports scientists and overseen by a sports doctor. They were in accordance with International Olympic Committee guidelines and protocols at the time.

That was 13 years ago and not surprisingly I followed my coaches instructions and achieved selection and played in the national tournament winning Sydney Women’s rugby union team that year.

Prior to transition I hid my female self and now post-transition I had to hide the first 30 years of my life, all because of views like the fellow had aired on his show.

I thought to myself how can he get away with demonising others? Even though I had achieved playing women’s rugby league and union, I was pretty obscure as women playing either code was an after-thought a decade ago and by that very definition, how could I even defend myself against this multi-media star?

I sat there feeling powerless and angry, as I had actually “met” this fellow a year or so before.

I had decided to help my women’s rugby league coach out, who doubled as an NRL Development Officer. I was in between jobs at the time, so I voluntarily put my hand up to help out with canteen duties for the kids rugby league gala day.

Said sports show host was in attendance as his kids were playing. When he looked my way from a distance, I smiled as I recognised him straightaway – a familiar friendly face from TV … or so I thought.

He gave me a deadpan look and then a look of trepidation and fear. He was scared out of his wits … it was as though I was covered in spiders.

I don’t know how the sports show host knew about my trans status, as I am not obviously read as trans and I don’t walk around with a sign on my forehead, but he appeared to know my trans status all the same.

Whatever the reason, he made me feel like absolute rubbish when I briefly locked eyes with him and again when I heard his rhetoric during his show approximately a year later.

It may not even have been aimed directly at me? He may have a problem with women rugby league players in general, due to their not fitting his ideal of how a woman should look, act or be?

Women playing footy pfft – you see, in this fellow’s eyes, women should be adornments and submissive and are seen as nothing more than objects.

What is even more disappointing is people who are seen as role models – ie sporting stars, appear to be among some of the most homophobic and transphobic people around.

It’s usually feminine qualities which are targeted as they are seen as lesser than and the perception is all gay men and transgender women are stereotyped and seen as weak characters due to the scapegoating of femininity and their pursuing their true selves. If you head in that direction than you are fair game from the conservative and far right-wing commentators.

I know this, as when my transgender status broke playing women’s sport, some people went out of their way to antagonise me on the sporting field.

I’m aware contact sport is about getting over the top of your opponent. It’s competitive by nature, but the underhanded stuff I never took part in. But obviously some did and still do once retired from the playing field.

Which brings me to Sam Newman. He and his rugby league equivalent appear to view women in a certain manner and Justin Smith wrote as much in his article in Rendezview, “It showed that people no longer copped this kind of bullying. And it just added to Newman’s image of a person who seems to think if you’re not watching footy, playing footy, talking footy, or you’re a sheila to shag, then you’re an “it”.”


Former NRL player Ian Roberts, who is still the only gay professional footballer in this country to have ever been out during the 1990s, echoed a similar sentiment in his 1995 autobiography, Finding Out, ‘ “I think concepts of manliness and femininity are warped. There are strengths of character and weaknesses. Why is femininity such a dirty word anyway? All men have qualities you could call feminine. It’s a pity a lot more guys aren’t allowed to be in touch with that side of themselves. The world would be a better place. And I’m not talking about men doing womanly things. I’m talking about understanding, sensitivity, gentleness. Not being so emotionally stiff.” ‘

AFL player Pat Dangerfield was quoted by Smith as calling Newman on the AFL Footy Show “irrelevant”. Newman fired back he was “not understanding the era of political correctness we now live in”.

Well Sam this former transgender athlete says get with the times buddy, as your rhetoric causes so much grief and forces transgender people to go underground. Which means the only way we can succeed in life is to hide who we truly are … I’m 51 now and so over that approach.

Anyway if that type of rhetoric was aimed at your lived-life, would you refer to it as political correctness? I sincerely doubt it. I’d say you’d act all indignant.

Fortunately Newman’s views and Margaret Court’s for that matter are now starting to be seen as tired and old school, as people are becoming more educated about LGBTIQ issues.

There seems to be a groundswell of people understanding and having empathy of being able to walk in our shoes and that is a great thing, as more and more transgender and gay people come out of the closet due to there being wider acceptance in mainstream society.

As for Caitlyn Jenner, well Newman may say nasty things about her, but I thank her … if it wasn’t for her I may be still in the closet, as she gave me the courage to come out to 600 Facebook friends. Since then, my life has for the most part been great (save for losing a few friends who thought I should not be so vocal) and I’ve drawn a line in the sand, as I’ve decided I’m never going back into that closet again.

As much as life is positive for me, Safe Schools statistics reveal four per cent of the population is transgender or intersex. The rhetoric aimed at the kids among this group is simply not on, as they should be able to grow up in a more enlightened world.

The ones who have to hide their true selves due to said rhetoric are the real victims here. In this day and age it’s not acceptable.

As for Newman and Court, one lives in hope they may one day have to change their ways and views, due to their being held to account, where their views are seen as old, stale, discriminatory and outdated.

*About me – to the best of my knowledge I’m the only transgender woman to have played in the women’s Interstate rugby league challenge, representing New South Wales during the 2007 season. I was selected again during the 2008 season, but I reluctantly withdrew from the team due to bone bruising of the knee.

I also won four ARU national women’s championship titles representing Sydney in women’s rugby union.

Prior to transition – I briefly played Shute Shield (first grade) rugby union for Eastern Suburbs when I was 20 during the 1986 season and first grade for Oakdale – Group 6 Country Rugby League 1991.

I’m a journalism student at Macleay College.

A link to the list of predominantly sports articles I have written for the ROAR & Hatch@Macleay

IMG_0999I have been writing for the ROAR for a few months now. The link to the five articles I have written for them is below:

http://www.theroar.com.au/author/carolinelayt/

Also articles I have written for Hatch@Macleay, my college newsite:

http://hatch.macleay.net/author/claytmymacleay-edu-au/

Enjoy the read

Caroline

Caroline Layt @ Macleay College - journalism student

looking happy after attending a guest lecture as a journalism studen: photo taken for my opinion piece on Donald Trump

Are you able to walk in my shoes?

You do really well in your chosen sport… in fact, so well, you excel… you win awards and you are one of the best players on your team. You train really hard and eat healthy foods… your body is your temple and you are in great shape and display great form.

During the 2004 season, you are chosen to play in representative teams and considered to be one of the best female players around.

You are granted cisgender privilege by coaches, administrators and other players who treat you well. Your club coach, who you confide your transgender status to – tells you to keep your cards close to your chest… he even suggests you lie as a smokescreen to keep people off your tail, even though this lie makes you feel uncomfortable and you tell him you don’t want to go with it.

You are always on guard that people will find out about your trans status. You are constantly aware that people who are now friendly to you today, may not be so tomorrow… if and when they find out terrifies you.

You decide to keep your head down, arse up and keep moving forward.

The season moves on and you are one of the fastest players in the competition… if not the fastest off the back of your success of winning sprint gold at the Sydney Gay Games 2002 and consecutive 100 metre women’s 35-39 years state bronze medals 2003-04 with a personal best time of 13.54.

You run those damn multiple 300 metre sprint reps, which hurt so much when you run them – but the speed endurance work you do – manage to keep you in tip top shape and fast.

You play numerous club matches against teams top heavy with international players and your reputation is enhanced by the way you perform against this top quality opposition.

You’ll mention your story to others, but many will be ambivalent at best – heh – you’re transgender and they see you as lesser than and simply don’t want to know.

What you write below is important and factual, as it sets up the rest of the story. It is not indulgent, as some would have you believe, as the moment they knew you to be transgender – they simply took so much away.

You are the leading try scorer of three separate categories during season 2004, including the Jack Scott Cup: Sydney Women’s first-grade competition with 17 tries and the Sydney Women’s Rugby Union First XV representative team with 5.

You take home the try-scoring-award – most tries scored by an individual amongst all players from five grade, three colts and two women’s teams – ‘The Ralph Stephenson Memorial Shield’ for your club – Parramatta Two Blues with those 17 tries.

You are nominated and win awards and one has you recognised among the six best players in New South Wales when you are nominated amongst top four players from Sydney and two from New South Wales Country.

You are lauded, feted and told by those coaches apparently in the know… that there is no one as good as you in your position in the country and moving forward you are told you can do great things for your country. Those words are your provincial representative coaches and selectors and definitely not yours.

You are referred to as ‘big headed’ by your teammates due to your sunny disposition and your outward confidence. The people who have this gripe are insecure about themselves, their own confidence levels and due to the fact they are not happy with their position in life and the fact, the coaches are showing you the great deal of attention they crave.

Once the season is over, you have a break and you play some other sports over the summer months to stay in shape. You play too much sport, without doing the extras you did the summer before. You become injured as your core is weak.

It doesn’t help that you have changed careers from fitness instructor to care worker over the summer months.

2005

You go back and train hard with your rugby team during the preseason. You expect from the previous season that you’ve just had – there might be recognition and respect from your teammates, but unfortunately, all you can see is them playing ‘silly buggers’ at training and disrespecting you – this bothers you.

You leave and go to a better team; the premiers from the season before, who have nine international players. You like it there, but you don’t like their coach, who patronises you by the way he talks down to you and you feel your opinion is not valued.

You head back to your old team, as you like the coach and after one of your teammates calls you and makes an impassioned plea for you to return.

The heat intensities on your return and it isn’t long before the bullying starts. They are “oblivious” and don’t understand or want to know the reason why you left in the first place; due to their poor behaviour and unprofessional training habits and standards.

You are benched for the first representative match of the season against ACT, as that club coach you mentioned above has now been appointed as your representative coach and in his eyes, it’s “payback time”.

You sit on the bench gathering splinters for most of the match. With twenty to go, you enter the fray. You do your bit to secure the win. Still, you are unhappy, as you know the reason you have been benched, has nothing to do with ability and more to do with politics.

You can’t hide your true feelings and others see your body language of feeling let down and hurt. They go for the jugular and on the return bus trip home tell you, “You are not as good as you think you are!” This statement is aimed at you, simply because you believe in yourself and you don’t like being on the end of someone else’s biased agenda.

An argument ensues on the bus trip home and you are the only one suspended from the team for one match, as the explanation given to you is, “You’re an adult and they’re children.” It doesn’t sit well with you, especially considering one of those players; is the 23-year-old daughter of the team manager and they came at you. The others are in their early twenties as well.

The representative coach who has a problem with you, simply because you had the audacity to leave his team, isn’t finished with you and he tells you it’s all your fault, as you’re not as experienced or as good as you think you are. It’s getting monotonous and starting to sound familiar. It’s like they’re all reading verbatim from the same book. This sticks in your craw and you are annoyed.

Out of anger when you return home, you write an email to him and think about it for a moment before you hit send. You tell him that he can have a go at you about many things, but not the lack of rugby experience… you had once played against him for Easts 2nd grade XV vs Wests (now West Harbour) at Concord Oval almost two decades before.

Of course, there is no reply as that is how cowards work, but you hear back soon enough from your own club coach who doubles as your representative team manager. Not only are you suspended for that one match, but you have to give reason as to why you should be allowed to continue playing in this all-female competition?

Your club coach asks, “Why did you tell him? It’s going to be harder for you now.” You agree, but you say, “It felt good at the time, letting him know what you truly thought of him!” You are a sensitive person, but on occasion, you call a spade a shovel. You feel a weight lifted off your shoulders, even if only for a little while.

You send the results from the gender tests you undertook a few years prior and your subsequent clearance as a track and field athlete from your sports doctor to the governing body of your sport. You include a letter from your endocrinologist, your papers from your surgeon, which include a statutory declaration and your hormone levels through your blood work. You tell your coach to relay your message to the chairman of your sports governing body, “I’ll see you in court if you don’t let me play!”

Of course, you play on, as they don’t have a leg to stand on, especially after you tell them, “I’ll see you in court.”

Unfortunately, however, there is another layer there now. Previously it was only jealousy because you were not only older than them but a better player as well. Now bigotry and ignorance come to the fore. They say, “No wonder she’s so good, it’s only because she’s – insert whichever negative connotation comes to mind first.

The season continues on. You cop your suspension on the chin and witness your representative team win on the bell. You avoid your clubmates, but you do manage to forge friendships with your representative teammates from another club.

Your season settles down and you play some good rugby interspersed with some not so good. You have an undiagnosed back injury. Your coach knows you are struggling and you tell him there is pain there and you ask him for a break from playing. He tells you to play on, otherwise, you will be dropped not only from your club team but from the Sydney representative programme as well.

It’s important you play at Nationals a few months down the track, as the Australian women’s rugby squad – the Australian Wallaroos are being resurrected for the 2006 Rugby World Cup and you need to be playing well to make that squad.

You play on with painkillers from your GP and she tells you that you have a muscular strain of the back, even though the shooting pains goes from your back all the way down your legs – tells you it is something far worse than that.

The painkillers mask the pain. You play some good rugby, although you have lost a good measure of speed. You can’t help but afford yourself a wry smile, as you know medical help, core work and a block of sprint training will have you back in tip top shape, but due to your club coach’s ignorance; the painkillers are the best you can do at this particular time.

A month out from Nationals you play against the team with nine internationals, which you had almost joined. You have a good game and your team wins a hard fought match. Spirits are high. The opposition players are invited to your sponsor pub for a few drinks and a feed. You hang out for a bit and then head home in good spirits, thinking that just maybe your season has turned around?

Unfortunately, your optimism turns out to be a false dawn. You arrive at training on the following Tuesday and you have a fight with your coach. Expletives are exchanged: like coach – like daughter – from that bus trip only a few months before.

You think about walking, as you have run out of painkillers and their merdysenol purposes have worn off. You are now in so much more pain than you ever were before. The pills have only masked the pain and your disc has slipped further and is hitting the nerve running down your spine.

Everyone notices you are struggling and rather than show you empathy and compassion, they go for the jugular and most buy in. You are told to put in from one of the laziest trainers in the team. You tell her, “It’s a bit rich coming from the likes of you, especially considering your training ethic or lack thereof!”

She continues to snipe, “You think you’re special, don’t you! You think you’re better than us!” You ignore the sniping and simply say, “I’m in a lot of pain, I can’t put in. My back is shot!” The trainer Daniel joins in and starts shouting at you and it’s a bit sad, as he was one of your biggest supporters and fans during the previous season.

Everyone is at you and that lazy teammate says another abusive thing to you and after thirty minutes of abuse, you finally snap. You give chase and are ready to unleash when you are grabbed from behind and have your arms pulled behind your back by one of your teammates.

You are punched in the face seven times by seven different girls who run in and take pot shots at your face. It all happens in an instant. Two of the more enlightened girls come to your defence and your friend Lea tells them they are all gutless – seven on one is hardly a fair fight.

As you leave the scene, the ringleader is still chirping away about how you think you are special. Lea puts her in her place and tells her, “Yes Caroline is more special than you and your anger towards her is simply fuelled by jealousy.” You concur with this view, as you walk away with tears streaming down your face.

You feel sad, as most members of your own team buy into the bullying. You are seen as lesser than – your equal rights disappeared the moment they became aware of your trans status.

Girls who are new to the team are nice to you for a few weeks, but on being told you are transgender you see their attitudes shift and your rights as a normal team member disappear overnight.

You exit the scene and head for Hornsby police station and talk to the police about assault charges, but they won’t investigate nor press charges, as you are honest and tell them you chased her after a “shitload” of goading. They do record your statement and tell you if it happens again, don’t react, which is very well… as the next time you may be dead or lying in a pool of blood.

You arrive home and your mother sees your bruised face. She asks you what happened? You tell her through a stream of tears running down your face.

She asks for you coaches mobile number. She calls him and reiterates what Lea says. Your coach denies this and tells you the assault you just undertook is all your fault – if you only kept your mouth shut, he tells your mother.

The discussion between your mother and your coach ends in stalemate.

Your mother tells you to walk away. You understand why she tells you this, but you don’t and you can’t, as you have these “bastards” to thank for putting this dream in your head… which you wish to pursue and she has always taught you to chase your dreams and goals.

She tells you it can only end in tears.

Luckily the following weekend you have a bye and you head up to the central coast to support the 2nd-grade girls. They are on your side and are outraged by the boorish behaviour which has been directed towards you.

You return to training the following week and you quickly find out where the trouble brewed.

Lea tells you at the sponsor pub that evening after you had left the West Harbour girls had dissed the dirt on you and told your teammates of the matters you had confidentially discussed with them earlier that season.

They paint you in a bad light even though they concurred with your honest appraisal and view at the time that your Parramatta teammates displayed childish, immature and boorish behaviour at training and they were lazy, unprofessional and ill-disciplined to play alongside.

The West Harbour girls agreed with you at the time and even added further to what you told them, but they were happy to leave all of that out when painting that bad picture of you.

Your physical assault on Tuesday evening can be directly attributed to these two individuals. It was payback for you leaving their team. Adding in another layer and you hate to raise it, but the L is not always nice to the T in GLBTIQ and you know these two ladies who are same-sex attracted have an issue with you being transgender.

These ladies expressed transgender exclusionary radical feminist tactics to discredit you and like so many instances where TERF rhetoric indirectly kills transgender people, here was another instance where your life could have been in danger, given the right circumstances, due to other people’s prejudices and disdain towards you.

You store your disdain for a later day and a later game.

After the assault, you play at ARU Nationals and you have a stinker of a tournament. You are benched, bullied, ostracised and vilified by the coaches and most of the players. The one game you are promoted to the starting XV is against arch rivals Queensland during your pool match.

You actually play a great game, despite the adversity thrown your way. One mistake midway through the second half where the wind picks up and the ball sails over your head from a kick downfield and you are hooked from the field. Your tournament is over as you watch your team win the national championship from the bench.

The assassination of your character is now complete. That coach, who ironically was one of your biggest fans only 12 months before when he granted you cis gender privilege – played club rugby with the Australian assistant coach and you view them spending an inordinate amount of time together.

You know by the body language they display towards you, not only has he told the Australian coaching staff and selectors, but he’s added in what a ‘troublemaker’ you are as well.

At the end of that season, you are informed you are not good enough to be selected for an 118 member Australian squad, even though only one season before you were considered one of the best six rugby players in the state. A state that had just finished one and two at the national women’s rugby championships via Sydney v NSW Country in the national final.

The irony is not lost on you, as the other five players who were nominated alongside you for that SMH Women’s Rugby Player of the Year award 2004 were all selected in that initial 118 player squad. One didn’t even play in the country for that whole year and yet, she was selected on her return from England.

None of those women are transgender, so they don’t have a mark against their name.

Your season from hell is complete when your club rescinds two trophies awarded to you from 2004. Your name and preceding winners of the two trophies you won are the only names struck off the list. All other annual award winners stand.

You still have the pewter mugs to this day – where your name once sat – but now there are two empty spaces.

You don’t play for trophies, but this hurts and one of your representative teammates says to you, “Their erasure of you is complete, as it is like everything you achieved the season before never happened!” You simply say, ” I know.”

It was akin to being treated as the same as someone who had failed a drug test. Actually, no – they would have been treated far better!

Their judgments are complete and your verbal protests fall on deaf ears. It doesn’t matter you went through a male puberty you wanted no part of and you were steered in a direction – so you didn’t break the mould; a direction that your mother told you not to be daft when you told her you felt you were a woman at age 14 when she caught you dressing up.

Safe schools had it been around back in the day when you were growing up would have made your life so much easier while growing up and the male puberty you underwent would never have happened – as people, including your own mother would have been so much better educated.

They have no knowledge or concept of your pain. They’re unaware of how you are feeling. If people understood that our bodies are simply vessels that support grey matter between our ears and we are much more alike than people think; than people may be much kinder to each other?!

Your season is complete, but the ignorance continues. You were once close to the chairman of your governing body, i.e. Sydney Women’s Rugby Union. You call him to seek his advice, as, despite everything which has happened to you, you wish to play on, as you can’t finish up on that note.

What he tells you though surprises you. He tells you that you are similar to a person who has an intellectual disability, although his words are far more harsh, as he refers to those people as mentally ‘retarded’.

He says that on now knowing you are transgender – you are like a retarded person and people don’t know where to look and your presence makes them feel uncomfortable, Once again blame has been transferred to you.

You know when the person in charge of Sydney Women’s Rugby Union feels this way than you have fewer rights than other people and he is not only condoning and encouraging bad behaviour towards you from others, but he is a catalyst for it as well.

Finally, you have an MRI scan on your back and your worst fears are realised, you have a protruding disc at L4/L5 and it is pushing on the nerve.

You tell your coach and he shows you little empathy and you now realise that YOU; his best player during season 2004 was just cannon fodder in his grand plans and schemes of things that were important to him.

You are angry, as his daughter had a similar injury and he gave her a month off from training.

You are glad when the season is over and you have time away from these people and the absolute worst time of your life is over.

They have made you into an absolute “shell of the person you were twelve months before.” It is time to rebuild your self-esteem.