In this instalment of our Women in Sport series, we hear from Irish rugby captain Nichola Fryday on her journey so far, her words of wisdom for young women starting out, and the biggest misconception in women’s sport.
Ireland women’s rugby captain Nichola Fryday didn’t take up rugby until at University, when during the summer of her second year of college, her mother urged her to join Tullamore RFC and she took to it immediately. She played her provincial rugby for Connacht before joining Exeter in 2021, where she currently plays.
She made her Ireland debut against Canada in 2016, making her the first female player of Tullamore RFC to receive an Irish senior cap. Outside of rugby, Nichola has a degree in food and agri-business management from UCD.
Name: Nichola Fryday
Profession: Rugby Player
Earliest sporting memory?
Learning to ride our family pony at home
How did you become involved in your sport?
I loved team sports and played hockey all through secondary school. In TY we did a girls rugby module for a few weeks and I remember loving being able to play rugby and thinking it was a sport I’d love to be able to play, but wasn’t aware of any teams locally for girls to play rugby.
What message would you like to share with young women and girls interested in pursuing a career as an athlete?
That the hard work, early mornings, missed family/friends events are worth it when you get the reward of getting to play for your team. The sacrifice is 100% worth it.
Proudest moment so far…
Captaining the Irish team for first time in the 2021 Six Nations.
The female athlete I admire most is…
Kellie Harrington because she has shown what Irish sports women are capable of and is one of the nicest people you could meet.
My favourite sporting memory is…
Playing against Japan in the first summer tour for the Irish team. Experiencing the culture and travelling as a squad to a country like Japan is one of the best experiences I’ve had.
Do you think there is still a stigma around women in sport?
I think there is to a degree but every week a woman or women in sport are breaking down that barrier. For example the Irish soccer team this week qualifying for a World Cup was amazing to see and to see all the coverage and recognition they got for achieving that was really positive.
What is the biggest barrier to driving visibility in women’s sports?
I think it can be the lack of understanding of what a female player has to go through to get where they are. There aren’t the same opportunities for women at times so they have to work harder to prove themselves and getting to that level can take longer.
What is the biggest stigma/pre-conception that exists in women’s sport?
The biggest misconception is that being a strong, fit, athlete means you can’t be beautiful.
If I wasn’t an athlete I would be a… Garda
My favourite pre-match meal is… Pancakes with Nutella and banana
My pre-match playlist includes… Beyoncé Freedom
My daily routine is…
I get up and have breakfast then get a nice coffee. Have lunch then head to training around 2pm where we do analysis then a pitch session, then a gym session. We refuel around 5pm then head to another team meeting before our final pitch session. I usually finish around 8pm when I do some rehab for any niggles I have and recovery (ice baths) then we have food and it’s home to chill before bed.
My biggest sporting goal is… To play in the next World Cup.
Sports brands I love (Irish or otherwise) are…
Lululemon (I live in their leggings — major obsession) and I love the new Gym + Coffee range, such nice bits for the autumn and winter.
Biggest splurge to celebrate a win?
Nike Air Jordan’s when we won the first test in Japan.
How do you mind your mental health?
I spend time with my friends and family and talk about everything with them and I love just going for a walk with my dog at the end of the day to wind down.
My three desert island beauty products are…
Image skincare daily moisturiser with SPF, the image skincare vital C anti ageing serum and the Charlotte Tilbury Magic cream.
I need 8 hours of sleep a night because… it means I’m recovered and ready to perform on our training days.
What does confidence mean to you?
Confidence, to me, is being comfortable in your own skin and knowing who you are as a person.
How do you get over a bad performance?
I take time to myself to review it and speak about it with the people I’m closest with and refocus for the next match
Lastly, why is sport such an integral part of community, on a club, local, national and personal level?
It brings people together. I’ve met people who live 5 minutes from my home and people who live on a different continent and they are some of my closest friends and without sport I would never have got the opportunity to meet them.