There are a few things that Jackie Tittley wants you to know about rugby and female rugby players.
Firstly, she and her teammates clean up nicely.
“People just have this image &- I don’t know why &- of some barbaric girl in shorts and a tee blowing people over. Yea, there are a few of those out there, but quite a few of us are very good looking.”
Secondly, it’s not as dangerous as it looks.
“There is a misconception out there about blood, and guts, and “Give blood, play rugby,’ and yeah, all the media you see is guys with their heads split open, but of course &- that’s what gets people riled up.”
And thirdly, “It’s called a try. Not a touchdown.”
The 22-year old third-year leisure science student and inside centre for the Stingers knows what she’s talking about; she’s been playing for nine years. But it wasn’t always her passion.
The youngest of four children, Jackie was enrolled in soccer at five, a result of a happy coincidence.
Her father, former CFL player and Concordia Hall of Fame member Larry Tittley went to sign up his two older daughters and son for soccer, and came back having signed up all four children.
Initially upset that her youngest daughter would be playing soccer so young, her mother, Kathy Tittley, couldn’t argue with her husband’s reasoning.
“He laughed and said, “But the fourth child was free,'” she recalled with a laugh.
Tittley also played tackle football for the Lakeshore Cougars for three years, and was on the swim team at her local pool.
“I’d switch from football pads to soccer shin guards in the car,” she said with a smile. “But I loved it.”
Her parents pulled her out of football after she turned 13, when there was a good possibility of her playing with boys far bigger than her.
She continued playing competitive soccer and had even started practicing with the junior Quebec team.
But at 15, she decided soccer just wasn’t doing it for her anymore.
“If you want a turning point in her career, that would be it,” her father said.
She grew up watching her siblings play rugby for St. Thomas High School in Pointe-Claire, so she decided to take up rugby instead.
As she put it, soon after she had “jumped” onto the Quebec junior team, went to nationals with them and never looked back.
“I think she likes the contact &- a lot. As a soccer player, she was pretty fearless. We used to say she played with reckless abandon,” explained her mom.
“It’s a technical game; I think she likes the challenge of how the plays unfold.”
Her year consists of club league games with the Montreal Barbarians in the spring and summer, Concordia games in the fall, and indoor rugby and training during the winter.
Two years ago, she was a member of Canada’s under-20 team, and last year she played for the Quebec senior team, but decided to take a break from it this past summer.
This year, Tittley leads the Stingers offensively with 60 points.
She single-handedly scored 32 points on Sunday, in the form of two tries and 11 conversions, in a 92-0 trampling of the Sherbrooke Vert et Or.
Claire Hortop, the Stingers captain, knew before meeting her that Tittley had a reputation for being a good player. But she also helps out in another respect.
“I’m the captain, but she helps me a lot. She’s vocal and a leader with the girls.”
During her career at Concordia, Tittley was the leading scorer last season. She has also been named a Quebec Student Sport Federation all-star twice, Canadian Interuniversity Sport All-Canadian once, QSSF female player of the week twice and Concordia female athlete of the week five times.
Though her father’s playing career ended before she was born, Tittley believes her affinity for contact sports came from him.
He was also a decorated athlete, and was named CFL all-star for two years of his 10-year career.
But her mother knows she got a lot more than a penchant for hitting people from him.
“Everyone says she’s her father’s daughter; she even walks like him. I think she really admires her dad.”
Tittley’s passion for rugby goes beyond the Stingers. She coaches girls’ rugby at St. Thomas, follows the national team, and can tell you all about mini-rugby, a form of the game used to introduce children to the sport.
“When you play this sport in Montreal, it’s hard not to be really involved [at every level]. It’s a pretty tight-knit community.” She added: “It kind of envelops you in a good way, I think. It becomes an extension of your family.”
Tittley knows a professional women’s rugby league in Canada is still a long time coming, and that fact has helped shape her plans for the future.
“I think once I’m done school, I’ll still play, but I think other things will take priority over rugby.”