A college lecturer from the Valleys who never handled a rugby ball until she was 17 is celebrating winning her 50th cap with the Welsh womenâ€™s national rugby squad at this yearâ€™s RBS Six Nations tournament.
Catrina Nicholas, a sports lecturer at Coleg y Cymoedd, described stepping out on to the field to represent her country at Talbot Athletic Ground in Aberavon as â€œan honour and a privilegeâ€.
The 31-year-old lecturer from Tonteg first picked up a rugby ball as part of her sixth form team before going on to study and play for UWIC, now known as Cardiff Metropolitan University. Today, in addition to representing her country at the national level, Catrina plays with Cardiff Blues region club, Llandaff North Ladies.
When sheâ€™s not on the pitch, Catrina can be found teaching BTEC level Sports and Public Services at Coleg y Cymoeddâ€™s Nantgarw campus. Her students include a number of the collegeâ€™s own menâ€™s rugby squad, among them players attending the Cardiff Blues Academy, which is based at the Nantgarw campus.
The Academy is designed to hone Walesâ€™ next generation of stars with the facilities and tuition to develop their skills on the pitch, while simultaneously studying towards qualifications that will allow them to pursue careers outside of professional rugby.
Speaking of her sporting milestone, Catrina said: â€œI feel truly privileged to have been selected to represent my country, and to have won my 50th cap in the tournament during a Womenâ€™s Rugby World Cup year. My sporting career to date has been incredibly rewarding, and I love being able to use my experience to teach Walesâ€™ future professional athletes and trainers.
â€œMy 50th international match was made even more special by the fact that the match also saw three of my Llandaff North Ladies team-mates gain their first international caps. Womenâ€™s rugby in Wales is still in its early years, but I believe that this yearâ€™s squad is our strongest yet.â€
Judith Evans, principal of Coleg y Cymoedd, congratulated Catrina on her achievement. She said: â€œCatrinaâ€™s successes are an inspiration to all of our students. Each time she sets foot on the pitch in a Wales jersey itâ€™s a demonstration of what passion and dedication can achieve. Best of all, the athletic skill she displays on the pitch is rivalled only by the academic excellence she exhibits in the college. Our students are very lucky to have her.â€
Rhondda Cynon Taff