Written by Stuart McLennan
Landing in Australia just over 12 months ago, England international Charlotte Booth has not had an easy start to her new life on the other side of the globe.
The COVID outbreak hit almost as soon as she arrived in Brisbane and she was forced to make a tough decision that went against popular thinking at the time.
“Looking back I came pretty close to (going home),” Booth, who linked up with Brisbane Tigers under former Scotland international and QLD origin player Adrian Vowles this season, revealed to Everything Rugby League.
“I had people messaging me from home saying they thought I was mad and it was a global pandemic and the rest of it. I lost my job and was struggling to make rent.
“The club I came over to play for promised me work and to stay in the coaches accomodation but unfortunately that didn’t happen. It felt like I almost had nothing here.
“Luckily I found some agency work; meat processing, labouring, rubbish picking, factory work – anything I could to get me by. It was tough physically and mentally at this point.
“The BHP Premiership was cancelled and I was very lonely. I came to push myself and that was what I was going to do.”
The key to Charlotte’s resilience and mental toughness may have been honed during her childhood in Wyke, Bradford.
“Growing up in the north of England on a council estate sport really was my outlet. A lot of the kids I grew up with live very different lives to me – in and out of trouble. Looking back, being involved in sport was such a blessing for me.
“I grew up with my brother Bradley and we were almost like two little boys. Play fighting over the TV remote, running around causing havoc.
“Brad played rugby league for our local team Wyke. One day his friend asked if I could play because they were short of players. I didn’t look back since. I had a spell of soccer as I got older and there were no rugby league girls teams but then I rejoined at 18 for the women’s competition in the Championship League one below Super League.”
Booth, who previously played for Bradford and Leeds, has firm goals of being the first English player in the NRLW and a permanent resident of Australia.
“I travelled South East Asia at 19 and from then on I knew I wanted to live overseas.
“In 2017 I was blessed to travel over to Sydney for the 2017 World Cup to represent England. I fell in love with the country then, the lifestyle, the cafes, beaches, a more relaxed, cruisey way of living and I instantly felt more at home.
“When I got home I approached a few teams and got the ball rolling. At the time I had not graduated from university and so it was not the right time for me. I had achieved all there was to achieve in the English game – Super League title, grand final, Challenge Cup, representing England, I wanted a new challenge and to really push myself.”
While the prop/second rower who has played 15 tests starting with an international against France in 2015, describes the pride she gets from playing for her country as enormous, she may need to forgo an opportunity to play in the 2021 World Cup to achieve her Australian dream.
“The World Cup is a very difficult one. Representing England in the last World Cup was by far the most significant moment in my life to date. That being said, if I was selected I would have to leave the country knowing I wouldn’t be able to return as I am not a citizen of Australia (COVID Changes).
“The season will run here until June. I will then have six months farm work to fit in if I want to apply for a 3rd year working visa as the government have closed applications for sporting visas.
“My dream is to one day achieve that and create a life here. Playing in a World Cup is very special and I would love to, however it would have to be at the expense of living here.
“It has been a bumpy start to the dream, but nothing is ever straightforward. I would love nothing more than to play and test myself at the highest level but at the moment my goals are focused on the season with Easts.”
Rugby League recruitment consultant and Charlotte’s mentor in Australia, Luke Srama, has nothing but admiration for the sacrifices she has made.
“Through great sacrifice comes great reward and Charlotte has experienced it all. She’s an England international, won Women’s Super League grand finals, Challenge Cups and then jumped out of her comfort zone as the first Women’s Super League player to play in Australia.
“She’s gone through different jobs, houses, worked on a regional farm to extend her visa all to pursue her aspirations of playing in the WNRL.
Hopefully (she gets) an opportunity this season for WNRL with some strong performances for the Brisbane Tigers and a sponsorship/visa extension.“
Update: Charlotte suffered a wrist injury in the first competition game of the season. It is likely to keep her on the sideline and out of work for the next three months. She intends to rest, recover and continue to chase the dream.