Interview | Alicia Quirk
Olympic Gold medallist Alicia Quirk was integral to the Australians success at the Rio 2016 Olympics, where Rugby Sevens made its debut. Alicia made her debut for Australia in 2013 and has not looked back; becoming one of the key members of the team, and playing every minute of the competition at the Olympics in Brazil. Not content with being one of the world most success women Sevens players, she is also a World Cup winner in Touch Rugby for Australia.
We were lucky to have a few minutes with Alicia recently, and quizzed her on her training & nutrition; so Alicia, before a competitive international game, like at the 2016 Olympics, do you eat much, or do you prefer to play on an empty stomach?
"I am very much an eater on game day. I normally play a lot of minutes so I need a lot of energy to get me through the tournament. I easily loose weight too so I like to eat a lot on game day to maintain a good playing weight".
What do you have on the day of the final? Anything to calm nerves?
"Our food is all catered by World Rugby and different based on what country we are playing in at the time but there is normally a spaghetti bol option that is one of my favourites. I like to stick to a banana after every game though and I love the BSC cookies and cream protein bars too".
England Mens Captain Tom Mitchell said most people would love to play Sevens, because during competitions they're having 70-80% carb diet, is it something similar for yourself?
"Yes most definitely. I can easily pile up pasta, rice and bread (I love bread) on my plate and not feel the slightest bit guilty. I love that I play a sport that allows me to eat so many carbs".
When you come off the pitch, do you eat much? Do you go for protein bars or shakes?
"Depending on what’s available I will have either or sometimes both. I prefer to have a protein shake as it is easier to digest and takes less effort sometimes after an exhausting game. I know I need to eat as straight as I return to the changing rooms to aid recovery for the next game".
How important is hydration an the elite level?
"Hydration is massive in such an anaerobic, lactate build up sport. Hydration maximises performance so I am having water and Gatorade whenever we get a break. We measure our bodyweight pre and post game and rehydrate based on the percentage of body weight we have lost.
I am a very big sweater so I need to be conscious of replacing my lost electrolytes regularly".
What is the most common meal in your household, do you have a cheat meal?
"Our household has a regular burrito night, which I really enjoy. I am quite a healthy eater normally but I can’t go past a really good Chicken Pad Thai dish".
As a player who is trying to put on, and maintain a more "heavy" weight, than perhaps what you would normally be, do you have to eat huge meals regularly? Max Lahiff (who came along to our studio), an 18 stone prop for Bath RFC in the UK, has to eat 7-8000 calories a day to maintain his weight otherwise he will lose it all very quickly, is it a similar situation for yourself?
"I have put on 10kg since I first started playing sevens in 2012. When I first started I definitely had to change my eating habits and consume a lot more calories per day. I have the luxury of being able to eat as regularly as possible and as much as I can consume. I am a sucker for seconds or thirds at a buffet and definitely always have dessert. I am one of the rare bulkers though in our program, which is a nice way to be, as I know how hard some of my teammates have to work to maintain performance-enhancing skin fold targets and weigh ranges".
All Sevens fans know you must get to travel all around the world playing rugby; does your diet change much depending on where you are? Is it a struggle to maintain a diet living out of hotels? How do you eat healthy whilst travelling?
"Diet and food available changes country to country but I try to keep my normal diet as similar as possible. I also have taken over cereals, vegemite, snacks etc to assist with the transition of playing and eating in different countries too".
Do your nutritionists give you any buzzwords or phrases or mantra's to live by?
"For me our nutrionist Peta says “eat it” and as much as possible".
What does a Sevens players training session look like away from the pitch?
"Sevens magnifies individual skills so we do a lot of extra sessions fine tuning the skill sets of the game and set piece areas.
We do a lot of work in the gym to increase strength, power, speed, and flexibility and work rate.
The game of sevens is always evolving too so a lot of off field training includes training views, watching footage and analysing different parts of the game and oppositions".
Do you have a favourite place to train or compete?
"Playing in Dubai and Sydney are my 2 favourites thus far. I am begging for the World Series to give us a leg in South Africa. I love training back home in Wagga and I really enjoyed our pre Rio camp training up in Darwin. The weather was incredible and the sunsets over the training paddock where mesmerising".
Is there an individual who you could say has had the biggest impact on your career (family member, coach, etc)?
"Coach Tim Walsh to date. Has been shaping me into the player I am today".
The popularity of Sevens has been growing steadily in the last few years; have you noticed this is a player? Have you felt increased attention on yourself - particularly since picking up the gold?
"Sevens has definitely has an increased exposure and reached a greater market since the Olympics. I am from a small country town so when I go home there it is great to be recognised in the streets but I love when the increased attention comes from a parent who tells me there child (in particular) their daughter has started playing rugby or sport in general because of what my team and I achieved in Rio. That is the most special and rewarding form of attention you can receive".
Where/how do you think Sevens will expand further?
"I believe 7’s will expand in all corners of the globe. The exposure the Olympics offered was second to none & I hope it takes off in all facets such as school systems, grassroots and nationwide professional programs".
What are you plans over the next 12 months?
"Planning to continue on with the Women’s Sevens and be selected for the World Cup and Commonwealth Games. I missed out on selection for the last World Cup so eager to give it a crack in 2018. It is also the first time 7’s will be apart of the Commonwealth Games and as they will be held in the beautiful Gold Coast it will be incredible to play there on home soil. It would be amazing opportunity to win them both! I am also hoping to continue practising as a qualified physiotherapist as much as my training schedule allows".