LINEBACKER and manager of the new Canberra Mustangs gridiron team, Lauren Ashleigh, can’t wait to “go out there and smash it”!
And she won’t have long to wait because on November 28, the Canberra Mustangs will play their inaugural home-ground game against the West Coast Angels at Viking Park, Wanniassa.
Six teams and 175 players in this semi-professional league will be involved in the pay-TV televised season that will run through the summer, leading up to the “Super Bowl” grand final in February.
Lauren knew very little about gridiron when she was approached through her gym to try out for the newly formed Ladies Gridiron League.
The fast pace, comradery and hard hits immediately attracted her to the sport.
“The strength and hard hitting of the game is the best part. I love that I can go out there and smash it!” says Lauren.
“It’s a sport for strong girls to go out and play in front of a large audience like never before. It’s a unique opportunity,” she says.
The 25 players in the Mustangs team have been training and learning the sport at the University of Canberra for the past six months. In her position as linebacker, Lauren is part of the defensive line with the goal of breaking through the opposition’s offensive and tackle or “sack” the quarterback before she has time to pass the ball.
“Basically, I have to be strong! I can’t wait to get out there,” she says.
“People might be shocked at first by the hard hits, but I think they will love it and it’s going to take off in Australia.”
The Defence public servant admits that her busy schedule doesn’t give her much time to sleep. Currently deadlifting at the gym a whopping 162.5kgs, Lauren is a competitive powerlifter and is ranked in the top 10 in Australia. She has also competed in the World Beauty Fashion Federation competition, which she describes as a fusion of modelling and body building.
With a raw-food recipe book to be launched next year, in addition to her work to help others prepare for powerlifting competitions, Lauren says that she wants to be a positive influence and role model in the sporting industry.
“I want to encourage girls to get involved as gridiron is an empowering sport. Expect tough, strong girls in this fast-paced game,” she says.
And as for the skimpy uniforms?
“The outfits don’t bother me, I’ll do all my talking through my hits.”
Lauren says the Mustangs share a closeness and a great “sisterhood” culture.
“You can’t get on to the field without trust,” she says. And Lauren says that this trust also applies when faced with potential injuries related to this full-contact sport.
“The fear of the hit pushes you more to run faster. There’s an excitement and rush involved. I’m not worried about injuries.”
“I want to empower women to lift, be fit, break through stereotypes and achieve a positive mindset which is a huge aspect of success in all aspects of life.”
“I am the most determined, relentless person you will ever know.”
Canberra Mustangs v West Coast Angels, 7.30pm, November 28 at Viking Park, Wanniassa. For more information, visit the Canberra Mustangs Facebook page.