From battling Sepsis in intensive care in 2018, to signing her first senior contract with Warriors Women this year, Centre of Excellence graduate Jemima Moss has grown in the face of adversity.
The Oxfordshire-born second-row was awaiting her GCSE results in 2018 when she was rushed to A&E at Worcestershire Royal Hospital where she was treated for the life-threatening illness.
Fast forward two years and Moss, 18, is now looking to make her Allianz Premier 15s debut after inking senior terms alongside fellow Centre of Excellence product Abi Kershaw.
“The illness came at a crucial time for me in terms of my rugby development as a lot of big things were happening for me with trials for England Under-18s, and I was also invited to train with the Warriors Women senior set-up,” Jemima recalls.
“The illness really changed my perspective in the short-term and I saw things as a blank canvas – my muscle mass had deteriorated from lying in bed for a period of time, so I would do bench presses with one kilograms of sugar either side of me, which was quite funny.
“I just thought that if I could build up my strength, I could get to where I was before and more. Warriors were so supportive, and I was grateful for Benny Williams and Lark Davies visiting me in the Paediatric Ward.
“They definitely directed my focus in the right direction and kept me going to where I am now. I had to make sure I didn’t overdo things and Warriors designed a rehab programme for me, so I slowly developed my fitness back and six months later I was able to play rugby again.”
It was a remarkable rise for the former King’s School pupil, who despite her challenges off the field, says All Black legend Dan Carter has inspired her to pursue her rugby-playing ambitions.
“Dan Carter has always inspired me with his kicking game and unbelievable skill level,” added Jemima.
“I always thought his kicking was really cool, which is why I got into kicking myself – I was the goal-kicker for the development squad last season and as a second-row that’s a little unique in itself.
“I was also inspired to play the game when I was six-years-old, watching my brother play every weekend at Bredon Star RFC. I always wanted to get involved, at times even acting as a ball girl as I collected the balls for his team when the ball went out of play.
“I soon joined the under-sevens boys team at Bredon and my love for rugby just took off from there.”
Moss’ sporting honours include representing the North Midlands at under-15s, under-18s and senior level as well as showcasing her talents in other sports such as hockey and rowing at King’s School.
Developing her rugby prowess at Warriors’ Centre of Excellence under Head of Women’s Development Benny Williams, Moss says she is grateful for the experience.
“The Centre of Excellence was great fun and it’s great to see a clear pathway for talented players to come through and aspire to play Premier 15s rugby,” she said.
“I met Abi Kershaw through the system, and we’ve become really good friends ever since – it was such a nice environment to play rugby and the standard was very high.
“It was a fun environment and I just remember having a lot of fun.”
Seeing Kershaw breaking into the senior squad this season and starting each of Warriors’ Premier 15s fixtures this season has demonstrated the impact of the Centre of Excellence.
Jemima said: “My goal is to make my debut and being surrounded by a number of elite players with international experience week in and week out, is fantastic for my development.
“The experienced second-rows that we have at the club have really pushed me on, giving me some key lineout tips, which have benefitted me massively.”