A Salford-born rugby player says she is ‘overwhelmed’ after winning the Six Nations with England.
Detysha Harper, 22, began playing rugby at Eccles Rugby Football Club from the age of 15 and has progressed quickly through the ranks.
The championship was England’s second in as many years, made even more impressive considering the disruption the COVID-19 pandemic has caused to the sporting calendar.
These sentiments were echoed by Harper, who said: “It was quite overwhelming, but then to do it twice whilst coronavirus is still about, I can’t really describe it!”
Harper’s career began here in Salford when she visited Eccles RFC aged 15, with rugby already in the family.
Harper added: “My older brother and younger brother played at Eccles Roosters, the rugby league team over the road, and then my younger brother played union as well at Eccles RFC, and so I said to my mum ‘why can’t I play?’ and then she took me down. Eccles was the closest rugby club to us, especially for girls because there was like, nothing.”
Starting at the age of 15 may seem late for some, but it certainly hasn’t held Harper back.
She said: “Yeah it’s quite old compared to other people, because a lot of other people that make it start when they are like minis, so like four or five.”
Harper puts a lot of her success down to her environment, having been in around rugby camps from early in her career.
5 | TRY for Detysha Harper after some sustained pressure from Lightning!
— Loughborough Lightning Rugby (@LightningRugby) February 13, 2021
Harper added: “So obviously when I first started I was 15, then when I was 16 I got invited to divisional under 18’s and that is a similar environment to this, so you go away to camps and you’re there for like a week or two or a weekend, and you just get used to the environment and things. And then as you get older you move up the pathway, so the environment has just kind of been like second nature to me, so it’s been easy to deal with almost.”
A lot of credit was placed on former Eccles RFC coach Trevor Parrott by Harper, who was instrumental in her time at Eccles.
She added: “He was my first ever rugby coach and he coached me until I was 18, but he’d go out of his way to pick me up, drop me off at home and stuff because obviously it was just my mum, and my brothers also played sport, they played football, swimming, so he’d pick me up if she couldn’t take me to training and then he’d drop me back off and stuff like that.”
Parrott was the former Community Rugby Coach at Eccles RFC and he remembers the night Detysha first went to the club.
Parrott said: “She was a natural athlete and had great hand to eye coordination. Not only talented, she was a joy to coach, keen to learn, prepared to try new techniques and always with a smile on her face.
“We knew she was something special from day one so it’s no surprise she’s gone on to achieve great things and the club wishes her every success in her future rugby career.”
James Wright, Eccles RFC Ladies and Girls Head Coach, saw Harper’s potential from a young age.
Wright said: “She showed clear potential from the beginning, having only started the sport relatively late in her early teens. She progressed through to U18s ranks where she was extremely successful getting regular caps for her county.”
Wright also spoke of how Harper provides inspiration for all the girls currently at the club.
He added: “Tysh is proof of the quality experience given to all girls who play at Eccles RFC. She is an inspiration for the fleet of mini warriors we have coming through the ranks. We wish her well on her journey and hope to see her down at the club when restrictions allow to talk to our girls about her experience at Eccles RFC and how they shaped her for international honours.”
Despite Harper’s international success, the prop has targeted domestic trophies with Loughborough Lightning as her next goal.
She said: “At club it’s probably to win the semi-final, then win the final, and win that and Premier 15s.”
With the women’s game in rugby growing, what would Harper’s advice be for any younger females who want to get into rugby?
Harper said: “Challenge yourself to be uncomfortable and go out of your comfort zone.
“If you think it’s not right for you, you’re not going to know unless you’ve given it a go.”