Help! I’ve been following the recent media coverage of NRL WAGs providing ‘advice’ on childhood vaccinations and I rolled my eyes so hard that my eyeballs broke. Anyone know the Instagram handle of a WAG I can consult for this serious medical condition?
Prior to the broken eyeballs, I watched with interest as two NRL partners – Taylor Winterstein and Shanelle Cartwright – made recent headlines for their public anti-vaccination stance. The media damnation has been vocal and swift with Winterstein in particular being singled out for charging $200 for her ‘seminars’ on the subject.
Any time an anti-vaxxer finds their way out of the wholefoods aisle and into the mainstream media, the frustration and emotion around the topic is almost palpable. What’s interesting in this particular case, is the intersection between this oft-maligned stereotype, and our other stereotypical preoccupation – the Wives and Girlfriends of professional sportsmen.
Many point to the 2006 soccer World Cup as the genesis of our interest in WAGs. Lead by Victoria Beckham and Cheryl Cole, the English partners set fashion trends from their seats in the stands and made headlines from the bars afterwards. They provided a concurrent narrative to the actual game, and to those of us who’ve never quite understood the low-scoring code, it was a welcome enhancement to the tournament.
Fast-forward to 2019, and an interest in the activities of WAGs is not so much a novelty, but a reluctant norm. We even have a shorthand for quantifying a WAGs’ news value through a handy reference to her Instagram followers.
But far from making headlines for drinking Veuve Cliquot straight from the bottle through a straw, WAGs are now using their platform to broadcast their opinions on a broad range of topics – not just the appropriate sunglass lens diameter for this season.
I should know, as a former-NRL-player partner myself I have been particularly mouthy in the past few months about the off-field issues facing the rugby league community at the moment.
I don’t mention my own exploits to give them a subtle plug (though, please, by all means, do have a read), but to make the case for an interest in the activities of those closest to our sporting elite.
The fact is, our sportspeople occupy an elevated position in our shared public consciousness, and in this current culture of encouraged voyeurism, it stands to reason that those adjacent to the famous and infamous will be the subject of some interest too.
I would further argue that in some cases, these opinions could actually be valuable. As WAGs we do develop a very specific almost Neeson-esque set of skills, and it would be foolish to dismiss us all as mere tabloid fodder.
For example, if you want some thoughts on the link between a player’s convoluted pre-game rituals and their actual performance – we can enlighten you. (Spoiler alert, I can assure you, through years of data collection, there is no link between a pre-game beef stroganoff and an increased tackle count.)
Want to know the best way to plan a family holiday for the off-season when you’re not sure if your partner will bomb out of the finals in the first round or go all the way through to the big one and subsequently disappear for a six-week international representative tour at a day’s notice? We’ve got a solution for that.
We can give tips on surviving weekend after weekend on your own with your kids because your partner has a string of away games and as a result of his career you live in a city with no support network to help you keep your sanity and crippling loneliness in check. We’re super-good at that.
Having trouble with the office man-splainer? Our lifetime of experience in nodding politely while dudes tell us ‘how footy works’, despite the fact that we have been forced to eat, sleep and breathe the damn sport from the moment we met our partners makes us experts in the practice.
Struggling with body image? As WAGs the societal expectation that we look a certain way and weigh a certain amount has left many of us with a hugely eroded sense of self-confidence so we’ve certainly got some thoughts we can share with you here.
Someone stole your thunder? Once I grew human-person and had it chopped out of my abdomen, only to have my husband make the New South Wales State of Origin team two days later. As a result, I spent six of the first nine weeks of said human person’s life raising him alone, becoming a parent for the first time alone, all the while fielding hyper-enthusiastic ‘you must be so proud of Ryan’ sentiment. Simply put, I can empathise.
Us WAGs are more just than giant handbags, filled lips and hot air. We have thoughts, feelings and opinions on a far-ranging variety of topics and it’s perhaps not the worst idea in the world to ask us our views on these things from time to time.
That said, maybe just leave the medical advice to the certified health professionals.