An unprovoked attack on her husband proved life changing for Gemma Carter too
BY GEMMA CARTER
PRIOR to November 2015, the last time I stepped into a ground for a rugby league match was back in 2007 when I watched St Helens beat Brisbane in the World Club Challenge.
How times have changed.
After then, the thought of being at matches and press conferences was as far away as it could possibly be as I trained to be a social worker in child protection, a job I was determined to get as high as I possibly could in.
It was all-consuming and I was focussed on progressing, whenever I was not doing the job itself, which involved working with children that were physically, sexually and emotionally abused or neglected by society.
Making those children as safe as they could be took a lot of effort and even more court time, which made for an intense working week – so marrying a sports journalist, who was at games all weekend, perhaps was not ideal.
Then fate, or rather a kerbstone, intervened. After receiving a visit from the police in the early hours of November 6th 2015, my life changed.
My husband, Gary, had been attacked while working in London, suffered major brain trauma and spent 6 weeks in a coma. The weeks to following were filled with emotion, fear, frustration and hope that ended with me going from social work to rugby league.
Text messages started pouring in from all kinds of people and I’ll admit that because it was a different world to me, I didn’t recognise the names – thankfully Google did!
But throughout everything the support of the game was huge and eventually Gary was able to go back to work – which meant I went with him as his wife and carer. I knew how important rugby league was to Gary and I was determined to get him as close to his working routine as possible.
Speaking to players, coaches, people in power was at first a very daunting experience but such is the nature of the game and the people involved, things soon became easier for me and I was ‘welcomed’ in by the rugby league community.
Speak to some people who do not know the game and they will have it down as a man’s world. Well let me tell you, even with my comparatively brief experience, I have recognised there are many women involved at all levels of the sport, be it press officer, broadcaster, Rugby Football League representative or even a fan.
And some of the confidence that gave me has clearly had an effect as I now have a column in a rugby league magazine. If you’d told me that 18 months ago, I would have laughed in your face.
I admit I am not the finished article, nowhere near, but what I hope to gain from everyone in the game, no matter who that is, is develop an eye for a story and my ability to deliver a different perspective on the game that I have come to love after the most testing circumstances imaginable.
I just thought I would be helping by getting Gary to matches and press conferences but the way things have developed over the past year has amazed me – especially the constant friendly feeling that is abundant throughout the game.
I recently conducted an interview with London Air Ambulance and I stand by what I said and always will. What happened in November 2015 was the worst yet best thing to happen. It has brought Gary and I closer together – and yes, that is a good thing even when he is in a grump.
Somebody once told me to ask a ‘girl’s question’ in a press conference. I never knew questions were gender specific but for the record… I haven’t yet asked a player what his favourite biscuit is!