By Alex Goff
March 21, 2003, Olympia, Wash ó She's back. Erina Queen is back playing rugby, and that's a good thing. The 32-year-old Emerald City Mudhen loose forward took time off from the game to receive firefighter training, and then to get through the probationary period where a firefighter can be dismissed for pretty much any reason, like a rugby injury.
But she has graduated now, and celebrated with a trip to the USA 7s camp. There she not only impressed with her skills, but her leadership, and will captain the USA on its trip to Hong Kong.
"Being captain is a sign that Iím getting older," Queen said. "I figured once I came back I would start off playing some 7s. Physically I feel pretty good, I might be in the best shape of my life, but for XVs I know I need to put on a few pounds. It was nice to be able to go to camp and think 'wow, I'm still able to play.'"
One of the most multi-skilled forwards in the American game, Queen is delighted to have a cadre of skilled and very fast young players with her on the trip to the Far East.
"It's to Emil [Signes]ís tribute that we have this talent," she said. "He really gets out there. Itís amazing how good they are and you wonder how good players my age would be if we had started that early."
One of those young players on the squad is Vassar College and USA U-23 standout Val Griffeth. An enthusiastic sort, Griffeth is ... well, we'll let her tell you.
"I am definitely excited about the opportunity to play for the US in Hong Kong," Griffeth said. "This team has a lot of potential, and this tournament is going to be a great chance to show the world what we can do. On a personal level, I'm hoping that my field vision and ability to create space will open up opportunities for my team to score. We have a lot of speed all over the field, but space and opportunities need to be created first. I hope that I will be able to help the team do that."
Having showed her ability to let loose her backs for the U23s, Griffeth, who will have outside her some exciting attackers like Ashley Farmer, Tasha Mannino, Jen Sinkler, and Lindsay Davidson.
But going to the tournament at all has it's own issues. War in Iraq and the outbreak of some nasty virus in a Hong Kong hotel have several people concerned. Queen isn't one of them.
"I personally am not concerned, and what I am seeing is some people might be a little worried and others feed into that, saying 'oh, you're not going are you?' The thing about the illness is that it was traced back to someone from Thailand. It didn't originate in Hong Kong," she said.
There are already news reports of cases tracked to North America ó you can't hide in a bunker.
"I have full confidence that the people in charge of our team will make the decisions that will be best for the team," she said.
Queen is one of those decision-makers.
"I was very honored to be named captain," she added. "I have gone to Hong Kong under Anita [Pease] before so I talked to her and asked for pointers. I want all the team to feel confident to playing each other and play cohesively. With the talent and the speed and the athletes we have, we can really do well."
USA Women's 7s Squad for Hong Kong
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