Magali Harvey's Long and Winding Road
Player Profile: Magali Harvey, Canadian Women's 15's Player
A force to be reckoned with.
BY Berkeley Loh | Karen Gasbarino-Knutt
Try, Try Again
In 2016 and at 25 years old, Canadian rugby player Magali Harvey was ready for her Olympic debut in Rio. After all, she had been awarded World Rugby Women’s Player of the Year in 2014, had taken home silver at the 2013 Women’s Rugby World Cup Sevens, was part of the Women’s Rugby World Cup Fifteens second place finish at WRWC2015, and was Canada’s top scorer at the 2015 Pan American Games hosted in Toronto. The future indeed seemed promising.
Yet 2016 proved a challenge for Magali: She broke her ankle in February, missing three out of five World Series events in 2016. But she came back and managed to push through – playing every minute of every game in the Dubai series and scoring the most points of the tournament. Despite her comeback and previous successes, in July 2016 Canadian head coach John Tait announced the 12-woman roster for the Rio Olympics team – and Harvey’s name wasn't on the list.
“My initial reaction was disbelief. I truly did not see it coming." Disbelief was soon replaced by resentment, but not as Harvey says, toward her teammates. She was happy for them and their many years of hard work.
But Harvey could not say the same of herself. She was born into a family with the ethos that hard work always paid off. She recalls the days when her mother, a major influence in her life, was a competitive body builder. “She came home with a big trophy won in a competition, and I pranced around with that trophy pretending it was mine.” At a young age, her mother taught Harvey that limits were made to be pushed. She proved that it was possible to balance all areas of life and excel in every aspect of it. There was more to life than body building; a foreshadowing of what Magali Harvey would learn when the Olympics were no longer on the agenda.
The Olympic dream had kept Harvey motivated, but without it, she had misplaced her love for the sport. She had thoughts of quitting rugby altogether. First and foremost, Magali was an athlete and rugby player. Everything she had worked for in the proceeding five years seemed to vanish before her eyes; she felt she'd lost her identity.
“After a time, I realized that if I quit the sport I love in these circumstances, I would never be able to [it] again.” She realized that the “biggest lesson learned is to focus on the process versus the outcome. Too many times, there is a fear of looking bad if you try new things.”
The Olympic dream behind her, Harvey was pleasantly surprised at where the alternative road led. As her mother taught her, there was more to life. Magali shifted her focus to life beyond rugby. For the first time in five years, she started to think about her future and areas of her life that she had sacrificed or put on hold because of the sport she loves. She'd had put her university degree on the back burner to join the national team. Subsequent to her post-Olympic epiphany, Magali discovered new passions within the film industry, including script-writing, acting, and producing.
But the story doesn't end there; Magali Harvey DID rediscover her passion for rugby and returned to the National 15's side, and is currently preparing for the Women's World Cup taking place in Ireland, set to begin a month from now. Harvey, like the rest of the team and their supporters, plan to best their second-place finish of 2014. The women's team - especially the undeniable star of the 2014 World Cup, Magali Harvey - hopes to take top of the podium this time around, having come so close a few short years ago.
On the road to the upcoming world tournament, Harvey spent time training with the Waikato Provincial Sevens and Fifteens teams in preparation, as well as completing both level one and level two coaching certifications. To this end, her hard work has paid off; it was recently announced that Magali Harvey has been appointed the McGill University Women's Rugby head coach for the 2017/18 season. It's a challenge that Magali is looking forward to. The Martlets won a single match in 2016/17; she's very much looking forward to improving their record and seeing what her brand of coaching can bring to the team.
Prior to this appointment, Harvey was only able to guest-coach due to her commitments as a player. Now it will be her own strategy and decision-making that will make the difference for the Martlets, which excites Magali. She is unfazed by the weight of it. To the contrary, she's looking forward to proving her worth as a coach, especially for anyone out there who may not take her seriously in the role.
Harvey will miss pre-season with her new team, joining the Martlets in time for their opening match versus rival Concordia on September 4th. Despite the delay, she plans to meet with her coaching staff prior to her July 25th send-off to World Cup. She's already deep into planning the season for the team, typical of the drive Harvey exhibits.
As for the Women's World Cup, Magali Harvey is frustrated by popular opinion that the only contenders for the championship are England and New Zealand. Canada has featured on the world stage for the past half-decade, and are feared and respected by fellow players - women and men both - the world over. That said, our Canadian women have experienced a change of mindset since their 2014 second-place finish; for the entire team, second place won't be good enough. Magali states it clearly: the women will "no longer be satisfied with defeat." With this new mindset firmly in place, the team will enjoy the rare opportunity to practice together daily for a good two-and-a-half weeks before their first match against Hong Kong, which they expect to win. Another week or more before they meet the New Zealand Black Ferns means they will have about a month to get their game-plan solidified. The team - and Magali - have high expectations. They intend to showcase their brand of team work and cohesion in Ireland and offer the world a "pleasant surprise." For her part, Magali intends for the Maple Leafs to return home to Canada as world champions.
We look forward to seeing Magali Harvey and the Canadian women realize their dream in the next couple of weeks. It sounds trite to say that to us, our women rugby players are already champions, but it's true. Canadian rugby supporters are immensely proud of our women's rugby team. Magali Harvey has waited a long time for this. Her and the hard working women's 15s time is now. Time to try and try again, Magali!