BEHIND THE SCENES | Melanie Antao
Melanie Antao has been around sport for almost all her life. And even though she is only one year short of her half-century she still turns out as a player for Richmond.
Rugby has been in her blood from her days at University of Greenwich and these days she gets her main fix of women’s elite rugby from being the Team Manager for Saracens Women. That might seem unpalatable for many of the Richmond girls she played with down the years, but for her there is no conflict of interest.
What she has brought with her to the StoneX Stadium is not only a lifelong passion for the game, but also a portfolio of working experience and expertise that marks her out as being exactly the right person for the job she first took on last season.
Mel spent a decade working at the Football Foundation, she spent time at Premiership Rugby, Sport England and London Sport, she was vice-chair of BUSA back in her student days and currently sits as an independent member on two RFU sub committees and the D&I Advisory Group for GB Snowsport.
Add in time spent working at the Women’s Rugby World Cup in England in 2010 and the London Olympics two years later and you get an idea of her commitment to sport. Next on her agenda is hopefully working at the UEFA European Women's Football Championship in England this July.
No wonder, then, that Alex Austerberry, the head coach at Saracens Women, was keen to get her on board to bolster his back room team. As Antao admits, “if you want someone to do a hectic job then ask a busy person!”
And it certainly can be hectic at times for the team manager. As a part time role, her duties are mainly focused on match day, but there inevitably is a spill over in almost every other day of the week in some form or another. Not that she is complaining – she loves it!
“I was asked to get involved back in August 2020 when I was the team manager at Richmond. Alex is a good friend of mine and as I knew a lot of the girls playing under him I thought I’d give it a go. I still play at Richmond when I can, but when they didn’t get a licence to play in the Premier15s it made life difficult mental health wise during lockdown,” said Antao.
“I was made to feel very welcome and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time so far. I am a bit of a stickler for detail and I like to set-up the dressing rooms for the girls in a particular way for each game. I have to liaise with the referees, the opposing teams and the citing commissioners as well as help the girls with personal stuff like tickets and parking.
“I’ve been there and solved most of the problems I come across at other events and in other jobs, so it is not too bad. But you do have to keep on top of things. It’s gone well so far this season, but the goal is to make up for last season’s disappointment in losing to Quins in the final.”