Written by Jennifer Hoar

From very early on in her career playing university ultimate in Edinburgh, Rosie Dawson dreamed of playing in the green and gold.

Specifically, at the World Games.

The dual citizen moved to the UK at quite a young age, spending her high school years in Edinburgh before gaining degrees – yes, plural – in medical biology and physiotherapy.

But despite years of jet-setting (read: hours in vans and buses) around Europe for tournaments, Rosie was “always going to come home”.

So when she achieved her dream, taking the field for the Crocs just one year after her international debut with the Firetails in 2016, it was a “heart-warming moment”.

“I remember when I first started [playing] I always thought to myself … I’d love to represent Australia at the World Games one day,” Rosie recalls.

“So when I got to move back here and that kind of opportunity happened, that was really special.

“Just being able to represent Australia at that high level with a group of friends was a really special moment.”

But it almost didn’t happen.

Rosie DawsonRosie wasn’t 100% sure she would even be able to work in Australia, uncertain whether her Scottish degrees would be accepted.

They were.

But then she faced another barrier: living and working in a new country, far from her friends, Rosie found herself isolated on the other side of the world.

Rosie says she questioned “whether I was even going to play again or not”.

But once she found herself on the east coast of Australia, Rosie turned to the ultimate community – and it delivered.

“I didn’t know anyone in a new city and I just thought ‘well, I always felt so welcome within the ultimate community in Scotland’,” she says.

“I went along and then I made some friends and I got back into it and that’s it really!

“I find the social part of it and the friends that you make … there’s such a community … that’s really why I keep playing it.”

Hitting a snag

Long before she moved back to Australia, Rosie faced another setback in her ultimate career – one that threatened her ability to play at a high level long before she reached her current lofty heights.

She estimates she first dislocated her right shoulder (her throwing arm) back in 2011.

And to call it a recurring injury would be an understatement – Rosie has literally lost count of the number of times her shoulder has “come out”.

“I have dislocated my shoulder quite a lot … I’ve lost count,” Rosie says.

“Like it will, yeah. A lot. Like double figures. I don’t know how many. A lot.”

Thankfully, Rosie has been able to manage her injury in recent years, and says she hasn’t dislocated her shoulder since that World Games campaign of 2017.

But she admits it had an impact on her emotional wellbeing, saying “I was never sure if I was going to be able to keep playing at high level”.

The dread of being out of action could sometimes outweigh the pain, she admitted.

“I just remember … my first women’s nationals here with Rogue – 2015, was it? And yeah the shoulder came out in the semi-final,” Rosie says.

“Knowing that I might not be able to continue playing that game, or play the final, is hard … the hardest moment is when someone tells you ‘no, you’re not allowed on the field because of your shoulder.”

Rosie never wanted to have to have surgery, preferring instead to avoid activities like surfing, and perfect her technique so she can continue to bid.

Rock climbing has been key in strengthening her upper body, and Rosie now straps her shoulder before every big game or competition.

“It was kind of a worrying factor at one point when it was starting to come out a lot … but the last few years it seems to be kind of, I’ve been managing it a lot better,” she says.

“It’s something that I’m always thinking about … fingers crossed it holds out a few more years.

“As long as you know where your weakness is or if you’ve got an injury, and you manage it well, you know, I’m never going to not play.”

Challenging the norms of how we play ultimate

Rosie was one of the first to hear about the AUL, which was largely inspired by the World Games experiences of Cat Phillips, Brendan Ashcroft and Matt Hill.

She recalls Cat and Brendan discussing a 6-a-side, gender equal league during the 2017 campaign, and felt “really humbled” when the AUL’s founders invited her to be a Sydney Suns marquee player in 2018.

She’s a role model to many young female university level players in particular, and believes the AUL can be an example to the rest of the world.

But Rosie actually doesn’t like the limelight.

“It’s really nice to think that you’ve got the community behind you [but] … I don’t really like being in the limelight,” Rosie says.

“I just like playing and that’s it so having all this kind of, more media around myself and playing … I actually find that quite hard, that aspect of the whole AUL.

But she knows putting herself out there is worth it for more reasons than one: inspiring the next generation, and to get the AUL’s message of equality to a broader audience.

“I love the fact that it’s 6 on 6 so there’s no kind of discussions or debates about 3-4, male-female, that sort of stuff,” Rosie says.

“You know, it’s pretty straightforward: 3-3, no more discussion.

“And the fact that it’s kind of bringing in multiple cities around Australia and making kind of each city compete at such a high level against each other … that’s really fun and really nice showcasing Australian ultimate … to the rest of the work and sort of trying to start something that maybe other countries can start to follow.

“[We’re] starting to kind of challenge kind of the norms of how we play ultimate … we start to mismatch genders … it gets people talking about certain roles of each player.

“It doesn’t have to be female on female, male on male. So that’s always really exciting.”

Rosie DawsonShe urges newer players to “have fun” and says she’s always available for advice.

“I remember when I first started playing, I always had certain players I aspired to and you know you’d always go and … throw with them and find out techniques and stuff and that was always really inspiring as a young player,” Rosie says.

“Hopefully I can inspire some other younger females or male players out there who would love to play at a higher level or the AUL one day.

“I’m always welcoming for any player to come up to me and ask me for any advice – on or off the field – or kind of ask me questions about my experiences … I’d always be open to helping people out as much as I could,” she adds.

“If you’re just starting out, I’d say just play as much as you can and have as much fun as you can. “Find teams that you enjoy playing with, or players that you enjoy playing with and just enjoy the sport and then the rest will follow.”