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Matchday Live commentator Halle Parker: “It’s the same thrill that I get when playing rugby”

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“If I didn’t start playing rugby, I don’t know who I would be.”


Halle Parker is MMU’s voice of rugby, enthusiastically commentating on games from Platt Lane and sharing a lifetime of experience playing the game. Her passion for describing the action is infectious, and she is a whirlwind of preparation and research before a game.

Halle’s love for rugby began at the age of five, when she stumbled across her dad’s old rugby magazines. 

“My dad had all these newspaper articles from when he used to play. When I was five, I pulled them out and looked at them, and it looked really entertaining! I basically went: ‘Right. I want to do this’. My dad took me down to my first ever training session in Coalville near Leicester, where we lived, and I’ve never stopped from then really.

“I’ve been a rugby player since I was six years old and for a period of time I was actually the only female rugby player in Leicester, so I used to have to play boys’ rugby. I played against boys’ teams, and there was always that stigma against me.”

However Halle was hesitant about joining an all-girls team as interest in women’s rugby developed. She says she had an “internalised stigmatism” about playing against girls, but once she embraced the new opportunity, she learnt to love the sport even more.

She says: “I was 13 when I first played on the women’s team. How it works in rugby is that once you get to the under 11s, you have to transition into women’s rugby. I hated it. I hated the idea of playing women’s rugby at first. I used to go online and look at the RFU Youth rules to see if I could still play lads’ rugby.

“However, once I started playing I really loved it. The girls are really lovely, but it’s a completely different energy to men’s rugby. Women’s rugby is not just about the game, it’s about the community around it – the social side. It’s fifty percent social and fifty percent rugby. I love that. It was more relaxed and it got me really interested, so I kept playing.” 

Halle is also a qualified coach and referee, and volunteers in the rugby community, helping with events and the development of the game. Women’s rugby – like women’s football – is experiencing remarkable growth. In the past five years, Rugby Football Union figures show  that the number of adult women playing rugby has grown from 25,000 to 40,000 in England. 

“I played with the Man Met Women’s team in my foundation year,” says Halle. “It was great. I spent a whole season with those guys. It’s a completely different intensity with women’s rugby, especially at university. But it’s a welcome change. It’s so much more mature but we can have a good laugh about it as well.”

When she discovered the MMU university sports livestream Matchday Live streaming both men’s and women’s team games, she quickly made her way up to the commentary position and grabbed a microphone to share her remarkable insights into the game.

“Since coming to Manchester, I’ve had a lot of injuries so I needed something as another outlet in rugby. I’ve always been hands-on with rugby, whether it has been on or off the pitch, and the Matchday Live commentary seemed to fit for me. I’m really loving it: as soon as the opportunity opened I jumped for it. I’ve never looked back. I think I’ve commentated on every men’s and women’s rugby game since then – except one – because I enjoy it so much”. 

On game days, Halle can be found in the Matchday Live TV studio reviewing the team sheets, brushing up on team and player statistics and talking to the coaches ahead of providing commentary to an online audience. As there are a number of internationals in MMU’s men’s first team, this audience can be literally global: with people tuning in from the USA, South Africa, Zimbabwe and the Netherlands to watch the stars of the future develop their game. In some games, Halle’s audience can hit 1,700 viewers. 

Watching every incident closely on the monitors in the studio, she thrives on the pressure of explaining what can be a fast-moving and often very physical game.

“I’m relied upon by these guys to keep coming back week after week to commentate,” she says. “It’s like being on the pitch almost, because you’re talking about the game. I get entranced by the game, it’s like I can’t escape it. It’s the same thrill that I get when playing rugby – just in a nice, warmer setting!”

She admits that rugby defines her as a person, and that while picking up the microphone to follow the twists and turns of the game in a very competitive university league has been a natural development, she still loves playing.

“If I didn’t start playing rugby, I don’t know who I would be,” she says. “Even though I was really outgoing as a kid, I had no way to control my aggression. There was no outlet for me. 

“Playing rugby gave me that outlet to get out my frustrations and it made me really mellow, especially as I got older. It also kept me fit and healthy. It’s made me a lot better as a person.”

University sport and Matchday Live will resume in October 2024. You can watch Matchday Live’s livestreams on YouTube at MMU Sport. To get involved in the show, contact s.heitzman@mmu.ac.uk

About the author / 

Felicity Hitch

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