What do Page McGregor and American girl group Destiny’s Child have in common? Quite a bit, according to the Australian Women’s Sevens team.
The 19-year-old half back’s enthusiastic contributions to team playlists and dance-related activities have led to her being nicknamed ‘Michelle’, after the member of the trio known mainly for not being Beyoncé.
“They call me Michelle (Williams), after the not-so-good one in Destiny’s Child, even though I’m going to say I’m the best,” McGregor said in Langford before this weekend’s Canada Sevens, her second World Series appearance for Australia.
“When we have down time, if there’s no meetings after dinner, we’ll play some cards and maybe practice some dance moves. Even on the way to training when we’ve got the music on in the bus, if there’s a Beyoncé song I’ll be singing the loudest, but maybe not the best.
“In Dubai, the girls were using that to pump me up in the dressing rooms before the game. They were saying; ‘you’re not Michelle any more, when you’re out on the field, you’re Beyoncé.”
The second youngest Australian woman to sign a full-time professional contract (behind Tiana Penitani), McGregor made her World Series debut in the UAE this year, scoring a try from a Charlotte Caslick cut-out pass inside two minutes.
A shoulder injury and a leg laceration caused by a piece of debri on a field in Las Vegas have kept her out of contention for most of the season, including the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, but she joins Lauren Brown and Yasmin Meakes in winning her second cap this weekend.
“I’m pretty nervous, but really excited at the same time,” she said.
“I had a bit of jet lag earlier in the week, but we’ve looked pretty sharp at training this week, and I just can’t wait to get out there with the girls and rip in on Saturday.”
An apprentice groundskeeper at Cabramatta Leagues Club, courtesy of a stint with the Bulldogs in the NRL Women’s Premiership, McGregor first picked up a football in her Bankstown backyard encouraged by her Kiwi parents.
Elder sister Rae played for New Zealand at last year’s Women's Rugby League World Cup but, after winning gold with the Australian Sevens team at the Youth Commonwealth Games, Page’s path was set.
“I love the 14-minute games - they’re only short - but it requires you to have a lot more skill. More one-on-one tackling, you’ve got to be really smart for this game and it just roped me in.”
After finishing runner up to New Zealand with an inexperienced squad in Kitakyushu three weeks ago, interim Australian coach John Manenti is still without the services of injured trio Ellia Green, Sharni Williams and Alicia Quirk, but Charlotte Caslick will play in Langford after recovering from a head knock suffered at the Commonwealth Games.
Along with Cassie Staples being rested, the injuries provide further opportunity for the likes of McGregor, Meakes and Brown to stake a claim for selection ahead of the final World Series event in Paris and July’s World Cup Sevens in San Francisco.
“They’re all still learning the game and learning our team stuff; they’ve all had one World Series (event) each, and it’s nice to bring Page back in,” he said.
“Certainly at the moment we’re very keen on exposing more players to this top level and, like I said, injuries have forced our hand a little bit, but it gives these girls the chance to play under pressure which is very different to coming in when games don’t matter.”
Australia hold a narrow lead over New Zealand in the overall standings and Manenti said the likes of ‘Little Beyonce’ should help ensure another strong showing this weekend.
“We’re scratching the surface with her (McGregor) really, she’s got a real attitude about her, a real toughness,” he said.
“She’s one of the smaller girls in the squad, but she’s not afraid to put her body on the line, and that’s hard to coach.
“We can build on her speed and size, and she’s got a real instinctiveness on the field which comes from having had a football in your hands for many years.”
Australia’s first pool match on Saturday is against host Canada and captain Shannon Parry said silencing the home crowd in the intimate Westhills Stadium will be extremely important.
“The crowd factor here’s going to be huge. They’re very vocal and they’re right there on the edge of the field, so it makes it almost like they’re on the field,” she said.
“It’s going to be a big test first up, but if you’re going to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best.”
After a rough trot with injury, the Aussie skipper said she was also delighted to see McGregor finally get another chance to impress at the highest level.
“She’s got good skills, she’s young, and eager to learn and is just a great person to have around,” Parry said.
“Even if she’s feeling crap, she’s always got a smile on her face, she’ll be the one cracking a joke or singing to Beyoncé.
“She knows all her songs back to front, she’s got all the dance moves, but she’s just that loveable young kid in our team and that energy she brings rubs off on everyone.”
The Aussie women's Sevens kick off their Langford campaign on Sunday May 13 at 4:36am AEST, LIVE STREAMED on worldrugby.org.