This month, we were fortunate enough to sit down with two of Touch Football’s greatest leaders;
Jess McCall & Sarah Peattie.

To give a quick recap of who these two are, Jess is the NSW & Australian Womens Opens Captain and Sarah is the Manly Womens Open Captain, who was also voted ‘Best Leader of the NRL Premiership’.

It’s safe to say, these two know a thing or two about leadership.

Both these two ladies have both been through major setbacks throughout their touch football careers and today, we’re blessed with some insight into what it’s like to overcome these injuries, plus so much more.

So, without further ado…

Name: Jessica McCall

Age: 30

Describe your injury/injuries: It was a Vawdon cup round game on a lovely Sunday afternoon and we were playing Newcastle. With 5 minutes to go in the second half, I received a ball and decided to go short side and all I remember is falling over and being in a lot of pain. I didn’t really understand what had happened and it wasn’t until I looked at my sister’s face, I knew it was bad. I had dislocated my patella and I knew I had done my knee, I had this gut feeling. My knee wasn’t as sore as my ITB and it wasn’t until my MRI that they realised my femur had also popped out and I had bad bone bruising as well.

How did the injury affect you mentally? Everyone tells you stay positive and you’ll be back in no time, but no one can really tell you how you’ll feel internally. It really tests you mentally sad having a strong support system really gets you back to a better headspace. You go into a depressed way of thinking because you’re so limited in movement in the first couple of months after being so mobile for your whole life, so you really have to take it day by day and tick a little box every day.

Discuss your comeback: I had never had a serious injury and didn’t know the type of rehab it took to be come back from this injury. I was really lucky in having my partner Simon Lang as my training buddy. There would be days where we would fight about going to gym because I didn’t want to go and he would carry me to car, all emotional. 

And also Sam Brisby was in rehab with me at the time with his second knee, and he would also seems to get a text message from me asking him something stupid to see if it was normal. And my family, text messages and phone calls to make sure I was ok really helped me mentally. 

My training consisted of building my base back up again (glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves and core) to single legged exercises, to landing properly, to straight line running and then into agility work. I guess once you do your knee, rehab never ends and in order to keep playing again and I’ve taken my knee rehab with me to this day. 

Favourite prehab exercise? Before training, I really like to warm up my glutes and hamstrings (Bridges, crab walks, hopping/jumping). I feel like once I know I’m ready to go physically, I am mentally better for it.

Favourite rehab exercise? With touch football being so demanding on twisting and stepping, landing exercises really helped in building trust again your knee. If you don’t have trust in landing on one foot and changing direction, you’d never take the field again. I found that this also helped me mentally in preparing for a real game would be like to go back too. 

What advice would you give to female touch player who has had a major injury and is on the road to recovery? That it’s ok to cry in the early stage and feel sorry for yourself, but then you need to get to work – your touch career isn’t over. I was lucky that I was a little older when I did my knee so I had already had a career but I knew I wasn’t finished. If you put the hard work in and do everything right, you can actually come back, faster and fitter then what you were. I think I proved that with my knee and I know 3 years on, I am a lot stronger that I was at even 20. 

Do you think the information and guidance The Final Touch is providing is important for female touch players? Although I was working out in the gym before I did my knee, it wasn’t touch football specific. It was classes and maybe a weight session with really light weights. The Final Touch really draws on their touch football experience and how our bodies need to work in order to play this game. The exercises that are provided really help get girls and women into the peak physical fitness and to help prevent serious injuries. 

What advice would you give to your:

– 10 year old self – Keep having fun and keep watching your touch football heroes, soon enough, you’ll be playing alongside them

– 20 year old self – Don’t give up the game you love because you didn’t make that side, keep going cause better things are coming.

– 40 year old self – Let your kids experience how fun touch football really is and be super proud of the career I’ve had.

Name: Sarah Peattie 

Age: 26

Describe your injury/injuries: I’ve ruptured my ACL and torn my meniscus twice in my career. The first time was about 6 weeks before the 2015 World Cup. I had been selected in the Mixed Opens team and I was playing at the Elite 8 tournament in the lead up to WC. In our second game of the tournament I was defending and my knee gave way when I changed direction. I got scans right away and found out I’d done my ACL and would not be able to play in the World Cup. The second time I did my ACL I had been back playing for about 9 months. It was at the NSW State Cup and I was getting to dummy half and my knee gave way again. I knew right away I’d done my ACL again as the feeling was exactly the same. 

How did the injury affect you mentally? The first ACL I did was disappointing because it meant I missed out on playing in my second World Cup. However, I was pretty positive right from the get go and turned it into life teaching me a lesson on how to work hard again. The second time was more devastating for me. I was back to the fittest I’d ever been and has spent a long time working on my knee and training to get back to my best. I took it quite hard, and so did my family as they’d seen all the work I had put into my rehab. But again, I turned it into life telling me that I needed to be doing something else which is what I did. 

Discuss your comeback: With my first injury, I stayed around the touch environment and kept myself as involved as possible. I found that it helped me to stay keen and motivated to get back to playing with my team. I did my rehab at trainings and I made sure my team saw that I was putting in the effort to make my way back into the team. The second time around, I kept involved but about 6 months into my rehab I moved to London. I gave my body a big break and enjoyed something that I had been wanting to do for a long time. When I moved back to Australia I was super motivated to get back into touch and joined a gym which really helped my touch fitness. I’m not going to lie, the initial few months of rehab is boring and tough, but it sets you up for success as you move onto more movements and touch-related activities. I made sure I did exactly what my physio asked me to do to give myself the best chance of coming back and not injuring myself again. I also made sure I didn’t overdo it which might have set me back in my recovery. 

Favourite prehab exercise? My favourite prehab activity is hopping. I find it switches the muscles around my knee on and prepares me for the force that goes through my legs when running and changing direction. 

Favourite rehab exercise? 

My favourite rehab exercise was weighted step ups. I found that I could see the gradual improvement in the power / strength of my quad (which you really need to build back up after ACL surgery) and it was a good test for my balance. 

What advice would you give to female touch player who has had a major injury and is on the road to recovery? My advice is to find the positive in the setback. After each of my injuries, I told myself that this had happened to me so that I could learn to work hard again, or so that I had the courage to move overseas, something I’d wanted to do for a really long time. I’d also say to think about little things as big achievements during your rehab. The whole way through my rehab I would turn things like using slightly heavier weights or being able to do one extra rep into huge achievements for me. As long as I was moving forward, no matter how small the progress, it was getting me closer to getting back on the field and that was a really exciting thing. 

Do you think the information and guidance The Final Touch is providing is important for female touch players? The Final Touch is providing incredible guidance to female touch players and it’s exactly the resource I think I needed but didn’t have access to growing up. With the increasing load on our female touch players, especially our youth players, it is so important for them to learn about preparing their bodies for the sport. Strength and conditioning training in particular is something that has never been focused on for touch and it’s so fantastic to see Sammy and Ash using their profiles to share this information. 

What advice would you give to your:

The advice I would give to my 10 year old self is to get out there and play touch! I didn’t start playing until I was about 12 years old so getting into it sooner would’ve been fun.
The advice I would give to my 20 year old self is to not take the position you are in lightly. Put your head down and work hard and set a good example.
The advice I would give to my 40 year old self is to keep remembering the good old days and keep on training. Get the kids involved and teach them the fun of touch football.

Thank you Jess & Sarah for sharing.

For more info, head to our blog ‘July Edition’ to find out more on these topics, plus videos and so much more.

– Sammy & Ash