We took time this week to grab one of the Sharks many signings this off season, who happens to be juggling her fire fighter job with playing Rugby at Sharks this season.
What attracted you to Sharks?
I wanted to play the highest level I possibly could, I moved up North for the Fire Service last year and played for Waterloo last season. When Sharks got a place in the Premier 15s, it was a no-brainer, the facilities are better than anything I have experienced.
When did you move up for the Fire Service job?
I moved up January 2019, live in Chester, then moved to Sandbach and recently moved to Knutsford. Jack Leech, Rugby Development Manager for the Community Department says it never rains in Sandbach, can you confirm or deny this? After a laugh; I can deny this, Definity, nice place to live though.
How did you get into Rugby and what positions have you played?
I started playing at University, in Gloucester, in 2014. Hadn’t played before then, I was put on the wing because I am quite small and then when I kept following the ball they moved me to backrow and I have been there ever since.
Why do you love Rugby?
I love Rugby because it is fun and physical. I have played a lot of other sports but nothing compares to the social side.
You started Rugby in University, how is University Rugby different to Club Rugby?
University Rugby is a lot different due to the team changing every year. When I was at Gloucestershire, the Rugby team was one of the best teams at that time in the country, we went to Twickenham and won it. As the years go by, you can go from a strong team to a weak team and then it might become more social. University Rugby is massively about that social side.
Who is your biggest supporter?
Charlie Beckett, who was my coach at Cheltenham Tigers. He was one of the main reasons that I moved up here, he supports me through everything, gives me the best advice and has taught me a lot about the game.
Your career in the Fire Service, how long have you been there?
I started January 2019, completed a 16 week recruit course and started on station in May 2019.
Best thing about the job?
Without hestitation; Job satisfaction! I have never had a job where you get as much satisfaction as this one. Everyday is different, physical and practical.
How many cats have you rescued?
2! But none from trees.. yet.
You’re quite petite, in the Fire Service, what kind of things have you had to overcome?
I am small so the fact that I am a firefighter may come as a surprise to some folk who may have a stereotype in their mind about what a firefighter should look like. But despite this assumption there is in fact no height restriction to join the fire service – it’s all about passing the tests which I did and about doing the job to the required standard.
Worth noting, Jess is 5ft 2!
You talk about stigma, can you relate to the Fire Service and Rugby, in terms of how you look and your physical build?
Yes, I think there is still a big stigma around women playing sport, evidenced recently with the #Enough campaign and social media. There are some people who don’t think women should play Rugby or certain jobs, like the Fire Service. It is about proving you want to be there as an individual, it can be tough however Rugby is the fastest growing female sport for a reason and the Fire Service are recruiting more and more women because it is a great and very fulfilling career. I hope to play my part to assist the growth in both of these!
What is your advice for a young female considering a career in the Fire Service?
Be confident and work hard. Those are the two best pieces of advice probably not just for the Fire Service, but for Rugby and life also.
What are the similarities between the Fire Service and Rugby?
There are similarities in regards to keeping yourself physically fit, and you have to be mentally strong. My first day at the Fire Service and joining my new Rugby team was nerve wrecking initially but I haven’t looked back since. You have to be able to overcome challenges which is something that we all have to do at some time. Going into an environment with high pressure is difficult but massively rewarding.
What are your goals this season on the pitch?
For me, I want to be defensively as strong and present as possible, as a backrow that is important. Also physicality and work rate around the park, if I have those two things I will be happy.
Three words to describe you?
Hardworking, motivated and honest
With that we wrap up the getting to know Jess Elbeck chat. An interesting conversation with Jess to discuss how she is breaking down the stigma and proving that regardless of your size, if you are physically and mentally strong and up for the challenge you can achieve things. We look forward to seeing her grit and physicality on the pitch soon.