There are some great rivalries which enthral sports fans across the world, but on a slightly smaller scale; you would struggle to find a more competitive household than that of Meg Ward and Natassja Purontakanen.
This year, Ward and fiancé Purontakanen, who has also played for the Queensland Reds, are set to feature as part of same team in the BHP Premiership after signing with Valleys Diehards.
Match: Stars v Diehards
Round 1 -
Venue: Barlow Park, Cairns
Off the field however, they love nothing more than competing against one another by turning everyday activities into a contest.
“We definitely aren’t ones to just sit around. We always have a bit of fun, but we are both very competitive, so we have a lot of fun coming up with competitive things,” Ward said.
“We are always competing in everything that we do, even just brushing our teeth or making our side of the bed; who can make it fastest, who can brush the quickest, just everything we do is competitive, but I think that is what makes our life really fun together.
“We have a lot of fun and muck around a lot.
“Through COVID (last year), we had that Reds versus Broncos challenge which was heaps of fun and people got right into it, so that kind of gave us something to do to kill the time during COVID.
“And it made the news, I could not believe it made the news … we had a lot of fun doing that, so that was one of the many adventurous competitive things that we do.”
While the sporting couple – who first met after being introduced by Valleys club captain Ali Brigginshaw and her now wife Kate – love to have fun together, in recent seasons, they have both relied on each other to get through some tough times.
Both are no strangers to setbacks and have worked hard in recent seasons to overcome some major injuries.
“(I am) feeling really good, this is the first pre-season in the long time that I have been injury free, so it’s looking really good; it’s actually nice to get through a pre-season without an injury,” Ward said.
“Tash went through knee rehab and I have been going through my neck rehab, so we have been able to do that together.
“I got the injury at the start of last year, post-surgery. I had more discs slip, so it was kind of touch-and-go there whether I was going to be able to play again or not.
“But I managed to play again last season, obviously I didn’t play at the standard I want to play at, so hopefully after a good pre-season, I can go out this year and give it another crack and see what happens.”
Purontakanen was forced to sit out the season after suffering an ACL injury in her first game of the season – something made all the more tough to deal with as it was her return to the field following another long-term injury the season beforehand.
“Coming back from injury this time around has been a lot harder, not just physically but mentally,” Purontakanen said.
“It took a lot of hard work, a lot of rehab, a lot of ups and downs, but I’m so lucky to have a great team of people around me.
“Meg has been amazing support and motivation through it all – on my bad days, she is always there to pick me up and make me do my rehab, I’m very lucky to have someone who understands it all.”
This season however, things are looking up for the talented duo who are both keen to see football starting up again and are hoping to run out together on the field for the Diehards, who are part of the BHP Premiership this year.
“I have been hanging out to get back on the field, so I am very excited for it to start,” Ward said.
“We are heading up to Cairns for the first game (against North Queensland Gold Stars) so that is going to be really good, I am really looking forward to that.”
For Purontakanen, pre-season has been a good experience with her new club.
“Pre-season with Valleys has been really fun. I learn something new every session from the experience and knowledge of the coaches,” Purontakanen said.
“Being new to the game, that’s really helped me develop as a player.
“And the girls have been amazing – every girl wants to be there and pushes each other to be their best.
“The dynamic of the team is really great and I’ve made so many friends there.”
When they are not planning for their wedding which is taking place early next year or concocting madcap plans, the pair like to unwind and understand importance of taking a break.
After they experienced the recent Maroon Members cruise with P&O, they have signed up to get on board with P&O’s upcoming Pride cruise.
“(Last time) we went with Sammy Thaiday and Allan Langer, it was an absolute ball, we had the best time,” Ward said.
“Just being able to stop for a bit and go on the cruise and enjoy the pool and all their activities, we even went and played bingo which was really fun.”
Purontakanen said she was proud to see such high-profile support for the LGBITQIa+ community, but done in such a fun way.
“I can’t wait for the Pride cruise, it’s such a great idea to support and promote the equality of the LGBITQIa+ community,” Purontakanen said.
“My favourite moment from our last cruise would have to be the dress up night. It was Gatsby themed and Meg and I went all out wearing wigs, dresses; Meg even wore heels.
‘It was hilarious; we had a lot of fun with it.
“We were so pumped for the night we even went to dinner dressed to the nines, and not many other people were in their costumes yet as it was only 6pm; so we had a few too many cocktails to laugh about it.
“We went back to our room to freshen up before the big party and fell asleep and missed the whole party; we woke up just after midnight still wearing our wigs, dresses and heels.
“We can’t wait for another dress up. We love going all out and having some fun with it. Hopefully we will actually make it to the party this time.”
P&O’s Pacific Adventure will depart Sydney on the inaugural Pride Cruise on the afternoon of Friday November 4, 2022 and will return on the morning of Monday November 7, 2022.
Guests can register their interest by visiting www.pocruises.com.au/pridecruise, with tickets on sale from 9am on April 7, 2021.