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Breaking the Scrum: Layla Arrison's Journey as Rugby's Trailblazing Commentator

Layla Arrison is tackling stereotypes and scoring big in the hard-hitting world of rugby.


My Press Portal - Layla Arrison

Recently, she made waves as the first English female commentator for SuperSport, debuting at the electrifying Singapore Sevens Rugby Tournament on World Rugby Day. Layla’s journey from a rugby-loving girl to a groundbreaking commentator is a thrilling story of passion, grit, and breaking the scrum of tradition. In this lively interview, Layla shares her exhilarating path, the hurdles she’s jumped, and her vibrant vision for the future of women in rugby. Buckle up for an inspiring ride through Layla’s remarkable adventure!


Layla, tell us a bit about your background. What sparked your interest in rugby?

"Rugby has always been a big part of my life. Both my parents are incredibly sporty and from as young as I can remember we would braai on a Friday or a Saturday, put the game on and support our team on the day. I remember incredibly vividly the 2007 RWC that we won, and how that made me feel. Even as a young girl, I was overcome with emotion and I knew in that moment how much sport could impact a life."


You received your BA in Humanities with a specialisation in Sport Science at Stellenbosch University. How did your studies influence your passion for rugby?

"It was such a defining moment for me. I only started playing rugby at university and had to choose a specialisation – I ended up choosing rugby and somehow it just clicked. I was actually a cricket player at university and then when I ended up choosing rugby somehow the doors just opened. I always wanted to understand the intricacies of rugby and how we as women could 'do it better' and so I dove into it head-on."


Did you always envision a career in the realm of rugby, or was commentary a later discovery?

"Surprisingly, I always thought I would go into the broadcast at some point, in my mind though as a cricket broadcaster. I remember one day after a cricket match my dad mentioned Kass Naidoo and what she is doing for women in the cricket space and I wanted to do that. I studied a coaching specialisation and so I wanted to be on the rugby field as a coach to try and shape the future, but later on, I learnt that I had a greater voice outside the four lines and the fact that it ended up being commentary and broadcasting it just matched seamlessly."


*On Breaking Barriers


Debuting at the Singapore Sevens as the first female commentator must have been a surreal experience. Can you describe your emotions and the significance of this moment?

"Being the first female English commentator selected from such a prestigious broadcast team in the country and at SuperSport was really a surreal moment for me. It’s something you always work towards to try and work at an international level and to have done it within such a short time period of starting my career was overwhelming. I actually sat in the stadium before the first game I did (which was the first game of the day) and cried a tear or two. It just felt like a moment of 'finally', all those hours you put in, all the moments of imposter syndrome, you finally get to do what you love on an international stage."


Have you faced any challenges along the way in pursuing your commentary career? If so, how did you overcome them?

"I’ve been really lucky in the sense that I haven’t faced any severe challenges. It is more about the challenges within myself, and believing that I am good enough, and that I do deserve to be in the positions I am put. There are still moments in my career where I am working with male World Cup winners or broadcasters who have been doing it for years and trying to compare myself to the way they do things without forgetting that being uniquely me is what has allowed me to be here in the first place."


What do you hope your presence as a female commentator will achieve for the future of women in rugby, both on and off the field?

"It’s more about showing young girls and women that there is a career and a space for all of us around the table. That after-school that is an option to dream about. Rugby in both my playing career and now my working career has taken me worldwide. I have seen places and done things in my life that I never thought possible and it is only through rugby that I have been able to do that. That’s what I would like young women and girls to see. That they can be in this space and their voice will be heard."


*Her Passion and Expertise


Beyond the technical aspects, commentary requires a deep understanding of the game. How do you stay informed about the latest strategies and player movements?

"Having played the game helps me tremendously, but all my friends are currently still playing or only recently stopped playing. It’s all about trying to immerse myself in what rugby is and has become recently and also using the experience I have to be able to implement the words I am saying. I have to make the viewer believe what I am saying, there has to be credibility and because it’s not work, but rather my passion, staying up to date with what’s happening doesn’t feel like work, but rather an incredible privilege."


What qualities do you believe make a great commentator, and how do you strive to develop them in your own style?

"It’s all about being relatable and having the viewer believe what you’re saying. But you don’t want to be a mundane commentator just spitting information, you want to be enjoyable and engaging with the viewer. They want to be let in on the action and you have to really bring the viewer in. Lots of commentators before me have done it and many after me will continue to do it, but you have to find your own style that works for you that you believe makes you the most authentic version of you."


Beyond the Singapore Sevens, do you have any specific goals or dream commentary assignments for the future?

"The Women’s RWC is in England next year so that is my next big goal. I really want to be the first South African voice on a Women’s Rugby World Cup, so short term that would be the goal. Long term it would be to eventually work at the large men’s tournaments and to make an even bigger mark in the men’s space."


*What Does Life Beyond Rugby Look Like?


As a young woman with a demanding career, how do you maintain a healthy work-life balance?

"That is often so tough. I strive to be the best, always available and to be willing to do my work, however, sometimes things can happen at the last minute and you have to sacrifice a lot of your personal life. But that’s what comes with this career choice. I made a promise to myself to never allow work to infringe on my personal life, but that’s not always easy. However, I do try to be conscious around making time to maintain a healthy work-life balance."


What are some of your hobbies and passions outside of the world of rugby?

"I have been really lucky to be blessed with some sort of musical talent, so when I just want to switch off, I grab my guitar, sit outside in the sunshine and play a tune or two, when I’m not doing that my partner and I have a little staffy boy named Gilbert, so we take him to the park and run around with him there. I am currently also trying to do a golf deep dive and teach myself how to play, so one day when I master that art form, I’ll list that as a hobby!"


Do you have any advice for young girls who might be interested in pursuing a career in sports, be it as a player or commentator?

"Oh absolutely, it is about taking your chances. Be open and accepting to every possible opportunity that could come your way. Have an open mind, keep your head down, work hard and you’ll reap your reward."


Layla Arrison's story is a testament to the power of passion and perseverance. Her journey from a sports-loving child to a pioneering commentator in rugby showcases the impact of breaking barriers and challenging norms. Layla's dedication to her craft and her desire to inspire young women around the world make her a true trailblazer.


To keep up with all things Layla and join her on this exciting journey, follow her on Instagram at @layla.arrison.


Stay tuned for more updates and behind-the-scenes glimpses into the life of this remarkable rugby commentator.

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