RPS’ Tania Naden to represent Australia this month as part of Wallaroos team

21 Jun 2023

Tania Naden wears two hats – she’s a full-time Project Manager in our Canberra Office and she’s a world-class rugby union player who was recently selected as part of the Wallaroos squad to play in the Pacific Four Series.

When the series kicks off, she will be in line for her fourth international cap – aka her fourth game for the Wallaroos. It’s hard to believe the first time she played rugby was in 2017!

We asked Tania about her extraordinary rise to the top.

Official Wallaroos photo of Tania Naden - RPS Project Manager, ACT

Getty Images

Official Wallaroos photo of Tania Naden

QYou only started playing rugby 6 years ago - how did it come about?

A friend - who’s actually the wife of Josh Papalii (a professional rugby league player for the Canberra Raiders) - asked me to play for a local team in Canberra.

I was not convinced at the beginning. I’d never tackled anyone in my life. First game I remember approaching my first tackle and being pretty scared because technically I didn’t know how to tackle yet. I’d only had a couple of training sessions and took to the field as No.10 (play maker) which was a big role to fill as a newbie. I now play in the Front Row as a “Hooker” No.2 (person who throws the ball in at lineouts) and tackling is one of my favourite things to do!

I’ve always played competitive sport - touch footy and netball - so, it wasn’t as if I was starting with no sporting ability. But when I played my first game of rugby, I was hooked.

Tania Naden in action as part of Wallaroos team. Tania works for RPS as a project manager in the Canberra office.

Tania in action during a Wallaroos game

QWhat was it like to represent Australia at the World Cup last year?

Amazing. It means a lot to play at the highest level of the game and represent your country.

Being named in the World Cup squad bound for New Zealand in October was good enough for me. I was proud of myself because 2022 was actually the year I returned to rugby - coming back from an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) reconstruction in 2020. I wasn’t expecting to make my debut as I’d only just joined the Wallaroos wider squad in May 2022. I got my chance coming off the bench against Wales in Whangārei and it was an unforgettable experience. We did quite well in our World Cup campaign – and made it to the quarter finals but fell short to a strong England side.

QHow hard is it to play at the highest level, while still working full time?

It’s definitely a juggling act. Unfortunately, this is a sad reality for women in sport, in particular for rugby union as we are not yet fully professional, so I still need to manage both being a project manager and a high performing athlete. You can really only do the two things if you have a flexible and supportive workplace, which I’m lucky to have at RPS. My managers let me take off time for the games. And it can be a lot – I was off for around five weeks for the World Cup last year.

It can be tricky issue though – especially for those who might be casual employees and don’t have the security of ongoing work or paid leave.

Tania Naden playing for the Brumbies rugby team

Tania playing for the ACT Brumbies

QCan you see the women’s game turning professional?

There’s still a bit of work to do. It’s only the men who are fully professional players – where playing rugby is their full-time job. Rugby is taking steps for women to close the gap. For the women, at this level, we are compensated when we are away on tour, but we still need other jobs.

QHow are you enjoying wearing two hats?

It’s a great life for right now – so I’m happy that I can have two professions, in a way.

I get a lot out of my ‘day’ job in project management – it’s complex and challenging. I work in a great team and the job has exposed me to some really interesting projects and industries.

And I’m also still passionate and keen to push rugby as far as I can and continue to play for the ACT Brumbies in the domestic competition and represent Australia as part of the Wallaroos squad – so, I’ll keep the juggling act going. And hopefully play in the next World Cup in 2025!

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