“When I was in primary two, I had to join a school sport. Since rugby was a sport my brother and father used to play, I went with rugby. I mostly played for fun, but when I went to Anglo-Chinese School (Independent), I decided to play competitively, and I’ve not looked back since.

I find rugby to be a unique sport that allows me to express myself. It’s a sport of many skills you need footwork, endurance and hand-eye coordination and it gives me the opportunity to show people what I can do on the field.

During my last SEA Games in 2015, I was still in National Service. That was probably the best time to play rugby. I was a Special Constable Sergeant in the Airport Police Division, and once I was done with my duties for the day, I could just focus on training.

Two years have passed and I’m pursuing my degree now. I have way more commitments to juggle and it can be hard, but I think I’ve matured a lot as a person, so my time management is better. When I’m in school, I switch rugby off, but when I’m training, I give it my all.

Preparations for the 2017 SEA Games are going well. We just came back from our training tour which ended in Brisbane. We train six times a week, and we’ve maintained the frequency and intensity of our trainings since the new team was formed last December.

I was also made team captain last year. It’s definitely a child’s dream come true, but it wasn’t easy taking on the new role initially. The SEA Games squad is really young – most of us are under 23 – but my teammates really helped to ensure that the new members are well-integrated.

Goals for this year? We won bronze in 2015, so we definitely want to make it into the finals this time round. It’s a round robin competition, so we cannot slip up in any of our five matches. We’ll just have to focus on our game, one match at a time.

It was a great honour playing for our home crowd in 2015, but we’re playing in Malaysia this year. It won’t be easy because we know they’re going to be loud, so I really appreciate the support of my family and friends who are coming down to support us. It means a lot to me.” – Marah Ishraf, 23

Interview by: Arman Shah