FEATURE | Sonic reflects on historic achievement
When you ask the question, ‘who is the greatest Saracen of all-time’ there is a vast array of recent candidates. Diprose, Buckton, Lynagh, Sella, Pienaar, Chesney, Sorrell, Farrell, Goode, Itoje, George, Wigglesworth, Ashton . . .
The big names just keep tripping off the tongue, you can keep on going and going. But that is only on the men’s side. Amid all the women’s internationals and female legends, there is one name that shines like a beacon among all others as an example of everything that is good about the values held so dear at Saracens.
Sonia ‘Sonic’ Green eclipsed many of the aforementioned ‘greats’ this month when she made her 300th appearance for the women’s side in their latest bonus-point win over Exeter Chiefs. An incredible achievement from a remarkable woman who celebrates her 38th birthday next month.
Much of her life has been dedicated to the club whose shirt she loves wearing, and continues to do so with such distinction. Her debut came as a 19-year-old and she has remained a one-club stalwart ever since. Not only that, she has become a central character in one of the club’s great off-field projects as vice-principal of Saracens High School. Cut her and she bleeds black and red!
It was fitting that at the end of the 32-19 home win over the Chiefs that both teams clapped her onto the field and then her teammates chaired her off the pitch as a mark of respect and admiration. It was a sporting tribute that had been earned the hard way.
Many of her teammates are enjoying the fruits of the blood, sweat and tears she has given so freely over the past two decades. She has been in the vanguard of hauling the women’s game into a new era.
“When I was younger I started doing dance and then athletics. I started lifting some weights when I was 13 and I was lucky that my PE teacher at Philip Morant School & College in Colchester made the boys play netball and the girls do rugby,” recalled Sonic.
“One day he was holding a tackle bag and I hit it . . . hard. He said that was pretty good, you'd better go and join a rugby club. So I found one in Sudbury and then moved on to Saracens. I always loved team sports and I've loved playing rugby right from the start.”
Her debut in black is so long ago that nobody really knows when it was or who it was against. Suffice to say it was the first of many.
“The reason I joined Saracens was because I knew it would improve my chances of playing for England. It has always been a professional club, with a little ‘p’ career for. You didn’t get paid, but you had good coaching and great support to get better,” she added.
“I was studying at Loughborough University at the time, but I've just stayed here ever since I joined. I train really hard and I eat really well - other than that there is no secret behind why I'm still playing.
“Everyone asks me if I can remember the first game I played for the club. I don't know who it was against although I do recall it was a 2nd XV fixture at the old Saracens club ground at Bramley Road. It was on the training pitch, light years away from the StoneX Stadium pitch on which we played against Exeter.
“Back in those days the women had to fight for the right to be part of the club. When the first women players arrived they had to help in the clubhouse, serve the men's meals at the annual dinners and cook the burgers at pitchside.
“I really admire those women who founded the club and gave the players that came after them the chance to experience something so much bigger and better. Things have changed so much for the team and for women’s sport.
“The club made it a very special day for me when I celebrated my 300th game. They really went out their way for me and it has to be up there as one of my best rugby experiences.
“Not because they made a fuss of me, but because we got our revenge on Exeter for them beating us last year and we put in a really good team performance. For me, rugby is all about the team and not the individual.
“Besides I didn't want it to turn into a wake - I'm not retiring or going anywhere, there is still plenty of rugby left in me!
“It was such a good win for us and what made it all the better was we had such a big crowd. They really were the 16th player for us and it was great to see so many children and families enjoying their day out.
“I also had a visit from Ben Earl at Saracens HS where he presented my jersey to the school. That was pretty special too.
“I asked Ben what it had been like for him to play with no crowds during the COVID? He said it was pretty horrible and so I was able to tell him that that's how it has been for most my career is a female player.
“But now the game is getting more coverage and fans are coming to watch us. More importantly they're enjoying what they're seeing and they are viewing us as rugby players, rather than women trying to play rugby.
“There have been so many great moments in my career - captain England A, winning World Sevens series titles, triumphing at thee Hog Kong Sevens, picking up 13 major medals with Saracens and playing with so many incredible players.
“I wouldn't change it for the world - Saracens is my life and it's been that way for 20 years.”
Sonic moved to work at the Saracens High School, where she is currently vice-principal, in 2019 having previously honed her leadership and management skills as Key Stage 5 Coordinator within her department at The Davenant Foundation School. Another teaching stint at The Petchey Academy saw her help to raise standards as a Head of Department and Director of Sixth Form.
The chance to link up once again with Matt Stevens at the Saracens HS was one of the major attractions to joining the staff there and she has since been joined by three teammates, who act as teaching assistants.
Saracens HS is a school community that has a heartbeat, an identity, and an unwavering sense of who and what it is. Its ethos embraces the values of Saracens which are Discipline, hard work, honesty and humility that create a quality of life for staff and pupils that is both enjoyable and productive.
What Sonic says she loves about her working environment is that the connection between pupils and staff promotes aspirational Lifelong learners, creates opportunities and outstanding memories. Her role at the school is helping to turn the place into somewhere where people return with great eagerness and into an atmosphere of acceptance and belonging.
“We don't expect everyone after school to play rugby but we do expect them to take part in extracurricular activities. That can be sport, music, drama, dance or debating,” It's not just about passing exams it's about learning how to work hard and how to be successful in life.
“We are moving into a new building over half term and that is going to be very exciting - it will be a new era for the school.”
She is an inspirational educator, a born leader and a team and clubmate to be admired.