It was the end of a long day, at the end of a long week, and the only thing any of us wanted to do was go home and be in our beds.

So you could imagine how disappointed we were, when our coach Tim Walsh, informed us all that we were required to come back to the training facility for a compulsory team dinner.

Seriously, it was the last thing any of us wanted to do!

As I made my way back into the facility later that night, I could see one of my teammate’s sisters step out of the elevator. I immediately started thinking, “I wonder what Paige is doing here?”

And that is when I saw my Mum, come bursting through the lift next.

I started crying walking over to her!

Mum did not return a call of mine all week since we had arrived back from Las Vegas and I later found out it was because she didn’t want to ruin the surprise for me.

Alicia Quirk family exclusive insight

As you have probably clued on, this was the night they revealed to us that we had made the 7s squad for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

It had been such a massive week and on reflection, I don’t think any of us realised how fatigued and tired we all had been.

But the announcement, and having all of our families in the room, brought new life into the place and gave us all the lift we we needed.

It made everyone realise how soon the Commonwealth Games were and how special it was to be part of the first Women’s Sevens team to be represented at the Games.

It is hard to describe what it is going to be like to compete at a Commonwealth Games in Australia.

That’s the biggest emotion; the excitement of what is to come.

When I first started this “7s journey” some five – six years ago, everything was driven towards Rio.

Alicia Quirk exclusive insight

The success of achieving that, through the emotional rollercoaster that came our way, was what made it so rewarding.

To finally reach that goal, was a relief as much as it was a celebration.

Because we put in so much effort and hard work, towards winning that Olympic gold medal, and for it to come to fruition was pretty exciting.

I still get quite emotional thinking about it; reflecting on it, and talking about it, makes me realise how proud I am.

The weeks that followed, filled us all with incredible moments.

Looking back, it is all a blur.

So much happened in terms of people reaching out; messages of congratulations, people you haven’t spoken to in years, media attention and everything in between.

To come home and to have had all the support we received from the Australian public was mind blowing. Absolutely mind blowing.

People were sending photos of their daughters, dressing up as us 7’s players for book week and we were getting letters sent to us from Germany asking for our autographs.

You ended up pinching yourself, asking “Did that really happen?”.

The impact Rio had on other people; I could never have prepared myself for that.

To wake up one day, having people send you photos of their young daughters, dressing up to school wanting to be like you… there are no words.

exclusive insight Alicia Quirk

That is the part that makes you so emotional; because you can’t believe that is happening to you and that people look up to you in that way. It is really is quite cool.

Coming from a small country town in Wagga Wagga, NSW – to have had 60,000 people riding me all the way to the gold medal meant so much to my family and I.

I came home to a civic reception; going back to my old schools and speaking to all the kids. It just felt like all these people had my back.

It was such an incredible feeling. That is what keeps the fire burning when events like the Commonwealth Games come around, because I know that same feeling can happen again.

For those that don’t know, Rugby 7s is the last Commonwealth sport that will be gender specific.

For me, I have always been a very driven and determined person, and wanted to do something in my life where I knew I could truly make a difference.

Ever since I was a little girl all I wanted to do was help people – I’m a physiotherapist by trade, so I love helping people, that’s my nature.

I love that I can combine my love for sport with the incredible opportunity to pave a pathway for young girls and boys to know how incredible sport is in a mutually equal way.

To be a part of history as a member of the first ever Olympic Women’s 7s team, and the first ever Commonwealth Games team, is special to me. I’ve always felt driven to do something important.

For me, it is incredibly satisfying that I’ve been able to do something in such a big magnitude in the domain of Australian sport. I don’t know how you can magnify levels of proud, but it’s the highest thing for me thus far.

While my teammates and I am still playing, it is an innate habit to do what we can because we know it’s going to help others in the future.

I love that I can be a voice, and speak out and stand up for equality, pay parity, and the betterment of women’s sport in this country.

There is a strong desire to keep being successful and continue to be great role models for future generations.

Alicia Quirk commonwealth games exclusive insight

That is fundamentally the reason why women’s sports is so great, because the characters are so passionate and they just love the sport.

There is no incentives or entitlements or anything like that around why we do what we do.

Playing sport has never felt like a chore and you don’t really notice it as much. But one day when I step back and reflect on my time in rugby, it is only then will it really resonate with me what we’ve been able to achieve and how fortunate I have been to be a part of such a big movement.

Of course, we haven’t achieved any of this on our own.

With us, each step of the way, has been our coach Tim Walsh who has been an amazing support to every single one of us.

The Commonwealth Games will mark the end of Tim’s tenure as Women’s 7s coach, but his legacy will continue for many years to come.

He was the first coach to ever give me the opportunity to play; he popped me on the circuit and had faith in me.

I hope along the way, I have been able to repay that faith back.

I’ll never forget when he took me aside – as well as Charlotte Caslick – and just ripped into us about upping our contact side of the game.

That honest session moulded us into the world-class players we are today.

I’m truly grateful for everything that he’s ever done for the program, for Australian Rugby and just for Women’s Rugby and rebranding it and making it all about the athletes.

Tim was one of the first to truly highlight how female athletes can just be just that… female athletes, regardless of what they are into or their backgrounds.

He has been great at breaking down those stereotypes and being really vocal in pushing for higher achievements in sport.