Bond Rugby Club’s Women’s Premier Grade Head Coach Lawrence Faifua, right, and Assistant Coach Paula Kaho with the team’s mother and daughter combination - Tara Reed and Shannon Symon.
By Pat McLeod
IF some of the closest bonds are forged in battle, then Tara Reed and her daughter Shannon Symon must have an unbreakable bond.
The pair are close, but each Saturday amid the bloody and bruising collisions of Brisbane premier grade women’s rugby you begin to understand just how close.
“I can hear her on the field yelling out ‘Mum! Mum!’,” Tara says with a laugh.
“I will be taking the ball up and I will hear, ‘Go Mum! I’m here, Mum!’ She will be running just behind me. It is funny and very cute.”
Tara, 41, and Shannon, 15, are part of the Bond Premier Women’s squad which last weekend secured a placed in the Brisbane competition finals. This weekend, in their second-last round, they play Brothers at The Canal.
For Tara, this year has capped a number of significant, and extremely memorable highlights.
The veteran rugby player returned to the game she loves, played alongside her daughter for the first time and is determined to achieve the treble – holding the premiership cup aloft with her daughter.
When Tara, husband Shannon Symon, a representative rugby coach, and daughter Shannon, moved to the Gold Coast earlier this year, putting the rugby boots back on was not a consideration.
She had played rugby since she was 15 and had reached an elite level, being part of the-then new Super W competition for Western Australia for two seasons, in 2018-19. In fact she captained the RugbyWA women’s team in her second year with them.
However, the family then returned to New Zealand and Tara was happy enjoying her rugby from the sidelines. But that all changed when they came to the Gold Coast and daughter Shannon was making people take notice of her rugby skills.
“Shannon’s boots went missing and when she got to training she simply said, ‘That’s OK, I’ll wear Mum’s boots’,” recalls Tara.
“That comment caused heads to turn and then I was being asked: ‘Do you play?’
“I hadn’t played for a couple of years and I was very happy sitting in the sun on the sideline. So, I treated the suggestion of playing again as a bit of a joke … until I got home and both Shannons (her husband and daughter) said ‘Well, why don’t you?’
“The fact that my daughter really wanted to play alongside me was the clincher. She had been hoping that when she was old enough, I would still be playing.
“I have to admit, I am really enjoying it. The Bond team is great, in fact one of the best teams I have ever played in. They are young and vibrant and very skillful.
“But the best part of it is playing with my daughter. That is awesome. She is a very good player and has a real rugby head. She will often be telling me what I need to do.
“I thought I would be really protective of her on the field, especially in the first couple of games we played together, when she was quite nervous. But, I had no need to worry. She may be one of the smallest on the field, but she can look after herself.”
For Bond’s Women’s 15-a-side coach, Lawrence Faifua, the arrival of Tara and Shannon has been a win-win situation.
“I first became aware of Shannon earlier this year when I took a team of local Gold Coast under 16 players to a NSW State Cup competition,” he said.
“I knew straight away she was a quality, young player – crazy good.
“Because she is only 15 I had to get the sign-off from Rugby Australia for her to play Premier Grade. It was during that process that Tara came into the equation and I was rapt. She brings so much maturity and experience.
“She plays in the front row, and although there is not much to her, she is so gutsy, all heart and a real inspirational leader.
“Shannon is a mirror image of her mother – small, but very strong. She could play anywhere, but at the moment, because of her age and size, she comes off the bench at lock.
“She is one of the best defensive players in our team … a great technique. We have a representative pack, but Shannon is not far behind them. She is an impact player and when she comes on the intensity level doesn’t drop.
“As far as the mother-daughter combination … that is very rare in a physical sport like rugby. Shannon will make her own way in the game, but you can see the same traits – toughness, no fear and the desire to get in and have a go.
“If she is anything like ‘Mumma Bear’, she is going to be pretty good.”