Tash Brennan is the latest multi-skilled Kent sportswoman making a mark on the international scene, aiming for the top in rugby after hockey stardom.
Tash Brennan Pic: Lissy Tomlinson/rugbymatters.net
Kent has produced a string of multi-talented stars in recent years but not many hit the heights of international recognition in different sports.
Tash Brennan, 27, has spent much of the last decade travelling the world after reaching the highest level in hockey before laying down her stick to tackle rugby, where she has represented her country for a second time.
Brennan’s former hockey team-mates Susie Rowe and Natalie Seymour join her in the ranks of current Kent sportswomen to represent their county in different disciplines and she says the sport gave them all a useful foundation to build on.
Kent cricketer Rowe, 26, has won more than 20 limited-overs caps for England and played hockey alongside Brennan all the way up to England under-21s, while Seymour, 27, played hockey with Brennan at Maidstone and Canterbury but, after taking a break from the sport after narrowly missing out on the GB squad for London 2012, finished ninth in her age group at the the World Triathlon Championships in London last summer.
Brennan said: “I grew up playing with them both. Nat and I were at Maidstone together when we were about 14. I moved to Canterbury at 16 to play Premier Division hockey and she joined a season or two after.
“I played with Susie at Canterbury but we used to play county and age-group internationals before that.
“Hockey is one of those sports that gives you a good platform to do another sport. I think it’s to do with the fitness and hand-eye co-ordination.”
Brennan, brought up in Cliffe Woods, Medway, has competed on six continents since breaking through at Maidstone Hockey Club, playing for England at under-16, 18, 21 and at senior level both indoors and outdoors and also winning gold for GB at the Youth Olympics in Australia in 2007.
However, despite being registered with Medway side Holcombe, whom she helped to promotion to Conference East last season, Brennan is currently focused on her career as an England rugby player. Her try helped an England side including Medway’s Rachael Burford to beat Spain to win the plate competition at the IRB Sevens World Series in Dubai in November, capping a fine comeback from a broken ankle six months earlier.
The former Rochester Grammar School for Girls student did not actually discover rugby until the age of 22, when she was studying English Literature at the University of Kent, Canterbury.
She said: “I fancied trying a different type of training and my friends who played rugby said I should come along on a Sunday morning.
“I enjoyed training and they said I should play a game. My first game was the Varsity game against Canterbury Christ Church University which was a bit of a shock to the system.
“I didn’t really have a clue of the rules, The only rugby game I’d seen was when England won the World Cup in 2003.
“I remember people told me that if I got the ball in hand then I should just run – it was a bit like Forrest Gump. Anyway, I got three tries in that game and haven’t looked back since.”
Richmond star Brennan – who previously played for Wasps – is part of an England performance development squad but has yet to make her debut for the 15-a-side team, unlike team-mate Burford, who is preparing for the World Cup in France this summer.
The former St Joseph’s Convent, Gravesend, student said: “Of course I’d love to get a 15s cap like Rachael and be involved at some point but I need to keep training. It’s my second year in the EPS training squad and I’m still relatively new to the game.
“These things come with time. I’m relatively happy with how I’ve played and for a winger, scoring tries is good. If you’re on form and scoring, then hopefully at some point you get an opportunity and if you do, then you have to take it with both hands.
“I just want to keep doing what I’m doing this year and stay fit and healthy. I had never had a significant injury before last year, then at the World sevens in Amsterdam in May, I broke my ankle.
“It was a nightmare. I had my feet up for three weeks and was on crutches for seven weeks. I was lost. I was only back fit in October-time.”
Brennan in her Canterbury hockey days
Despite Holcombe aiming for promotion to the National Premier Division this season, Brennan has her sights set on silverware with Richmond. She said: “My main priority for the moment is rugby. There are a few international competitions coming up. We have World Series events in Atlanta and Rio in February and another in China in April. I’d love to be involved as much as possible.“
“Rio would be an incredible place to play. I had an under-21 hockey tournament in Chile once but I’ve not been to that part of the world much before.
“Representing your country and travelling to these great places with your friends is amazing. The only thing is that it can be challenging with my full-time job as a recruitment consultant – trying to fit training on top is not easy – and you don’t get to see as much of the places as you’d like.
“If I am not selected to go away, then I’d like to play hockey if I can. I took a season off hockey to focus more on rugby but went back to play at Holcombe last year. We won promotion and I have played a couple of games this season. It’s good fun there.”
Rio will also host the debut of rugby sevens in the 2016 Olympic Games but Brennan claimed she isn’t yet focused on the prospect of becoming an Olympian, saying: “It’s a long way off and you never know what might happen before then, particularly in a sport like rugby. It would be amazing to play in an Olympics but we’ll have to wait and see how things go.”
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