Harlequins Women’s second-row Deborah McCormack has not had the best of luck with injury since September 2018, but interests outside of rugby have kept her motivated and she is now enjoying juggling different commitments as the new year approaches.
When she suffered a complicated injury to her right shoulder at the start of the 2018/19 season it coincided with her starting a part-time Masters in Digital Media Production at Oxford Brookes University.
Whilst all of that was going on, she was also working as an IT Technician in a secondary school and getting to the bottom of her injury with the medics and keeping her other two commitments going became quite tough.
However, fast forward some 15 months and her rugby, university course and job are running smoothly alongside one another thanks to her diligence and hard work and also a QUINSSA education bursary that she received ahead of 2019/20.
QUINSSA is the Harlequins’ supporters association and McCormack and team mates Megan Brodie, Destiny Jordan Field, Amy Montague and Lucy Packer are all receiving support.
All five of the players are currently balancing university studies alongside playing for the Tyrrells Premier 15s title chasers and the Head of Harlequins Women’s Rugby Programme, Atlanta St John said: “What our players are achieving outside of rugby is impressive and something the club is incredibly proud of.
“The range of subjects these players are studying demonstrates the breadth and depth of players we have in our Women’s squad and highlights their dedication and commitment to their education. The support that QUINSSA is providing is invaluable.”
Invaluable is the word St John used and Scotland cap McCormack told TRU: “I have been really lucky to receive a QUINSSA bursary. It has really helped me to get involved in new things and also balance my various commitments.
“Sometimes it can be hard when you are trying to work, study and play rugby. For me the main issue is that I have a lot of travel involved. I live in Surrey while Uni is in Oxford and I work in Camberley while obviously I have to travel to Guildford for rugby too, so the bursary is helping me manage all of that in terms of travel and my timings etc. I wouldn’t be able to do it all otherwise.”
So what made McCormack, a qualified teacher, choose a Digital Media Production course?
“I always enjoyed creative things at school, those things and rugby, but as I left school things took a different path,” she explained.
“Firstly, I did my teacher training and then I taught for a good few years, but I never felt I could give it the complete commitment needed with my rugby alongside it.
“Teaching took a back seat and I am enjoying being an IT Technician currently. I have always been interested in digital media so when I came across the course at Oxford Brookes I was always keen to give it a go.
“I am doing it part-time, so I am in my second year now and loving it, it is really varied which is nice. We have done lots of things like animation, video production and getting to see how a live newsroom works so there is always something different to get your teeth into.
“I am also able to borrow the professional equipment and get experience under my belt. Sometimes you need that switch off from rugby, it is a release from rugby, but it also challenges me and the balance between the course, rugby and work is key.
“Planning is also key. I am doing a lot of travelling so I need to be organised and I am getting better at that as things move along.”
McCormack’s recent long-term injury woes started during the first match of the Premier 15s last season.
“It was quite a significant injury to my shoulder, but it was a complicated one and it was quite a muddy picture which took the experts some time to work out exactly what was going on,” the 35-year-old explained.
“Scans and tests were all showing different things so it was hard to know how to treat it.
“I did kind of make a comeback just before the Six Nations at the start of this year because I was so eager to play, but I probably shouldn’t have and the injury still wasn’t right.
“After the Six Nations and the end of the Premier 15s season I spent a lot of time with the medical staff at Quins trying to get it right. It turned out there was quite a bit of damage to the nerve, so we tried a few different treatment plans, but mainly hard work, determination and dogged willpower got me there.”
Toil and torment over the past 14 months; this injury has challenged me in many different ways. So thankful to @harlequinswomen & all my friends & family for pulling me through ♥? Proud to be back in quarters ??#injury #rugby #strongertogether #mentalhealthmatters #enjoyit pic.twitter.com/qVpX3Ytfao— Deborah McCormack (@RuggersMack) December 1, 2019
McCormack made her comeback on November 30 in the 81-0 home win over Firwood Waterloo in the league and is now monitoring the injury and slowly getting back to normal.
She hopes to play a big part as Harlequins look to challenge for silverware in the next few months and few in the sport could begrudge this focused individual a slice of luck.
List of Harlequins Women’s players being supported by QUINSSA education bursaries in 2019/20
Megan Brodie – St Mary’s University – Physical Education and Sports Science
Destiny Jordan Field – Brunel University – Law with Criminal Justice
Deborah McCormack – Oxford Brookes University – Masters in Digital Media Production
Amy Montague – Kingston University – Psychology PhD
Lucy Packer – University of Surrey –Biomedical Science
Harlequins Women host Worcester Warriors in the Tyrrells Premier 15s on Saturday at noon at Surrey Sports Park