By Abi Curran, Sportsbeat
No one need remind Tysh Harper of where her ambitions within rugby have taken her but it is remaining true to herself which she is most proud of.
As Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby gets underway this weekend, few have waited longer for the highly-anticipated restart than the 24-year-old.
The Sale Sharks prop is set to take to the field for the first time since March on Saturday, following a devastating Achilles rupture while training on Six Nations duty.
And Salford-born Harper, who has become a local role model since making her senior Red Roses international debut in 2020, believes her charming and infectious energy can help establish her side as fan favourites upon PWR’s relaunch.
𝗧𝗘𝗔𝗠 𝗡𝗘𝗪𝗦 | 🐻 v 🦈
🔥 Tysh Harper, Beatrice Regoni and Morwenna Talling have their sharks debut!
💪 Our internationals return fresh off WXV action!
📺 Not to mention we’re on @tntsports !
It’s time to bring our Northern bite to the @ThePWR🔥.#BRIvSAL |… pic.twitter.com/ZH3TOjhmBp
— Sale Sharks Women (@SaleSharksWomen) November 17, 2023
“Some people do look at themselves as a role model and think they have to act a certain way,” she said.
“Even when you do interviews, it's easy to change who you are. It’s just important to be my true self and don’t dim the light.
“I’m known for having fun and when I’m not in camp people do say, “when’s Tysh coming back?” because I do like to light up the room.
“It’s about winning the game but also, if you don’t know who you want to be off the pitch, it’s just those playing memories that you have.
“I think that’s probably my point of difference and I think everybody needs somebody like that in their team.”
It has been a long and arduous road to recovery for Harper, who signed for Sale in the summer from Loughborough Lightning, making her first steps to full fitness by tapping into her scrummaging muscle memory before re-learning to run.
She is joined by fellow Red Rose Morwenna Talling, who also made a move from Lightning to bolster Sale’s ranks this season.
Harper admitted she had doubts whether she would ever make it back to her best but, following her move to Carrington, feels more determined than ever to take her game to a new level.
“The most important thing to me is looking back to where I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t run and now I can do all these things so that's quite beautiful,” she said.
“It’s been brilliant at Sale. I came from Loughborough where I’ve been for four years and to me that was my home and I didn’t know much outside of that until now.
“To come to Sale and be welcomed in, it’s been the best decision that I could’ve made.
“When we do go into scrum sessions, we all seem to know what we’re doing and it’s just that support from your teammates that makes it extra special.
“Right now, I’m a lot more confident with my scrumming, before I got injured I’d just transitioned to tighthead side so after my injury I’ve been trying to re-learn.”
The North West side will make the journey down to Ashton Gate for Saturday’s TNT Sports televised headliner against Bristol Bears, a surreal moment for Harper after months on the sidelines.
It is another landmark milestone after receiving a 2021 Rugby World Cup call-up to replace the injured Laura Keates last year.
When Sale take to the stage at their home of Heywood Road against Harlequins in Round 2, she will be roared on by a raft of family support, including her most passionate supporter, Nana Anne.
“The vibe is so much fun at the minute,” she said. “Everyone wants to be there. It’s that feeling when you first go to rugby and that buzz that something’s coming but you don’t really know what.
“I am nervous but I’m just looking forward to getting onto the pitch for the first kick-off because then you’ll forget about everything and get lost in the game.
“I can’t wait to hear my nana in Heywood Road too - she shouts all sorts, she doesn’t really know what’s happening but she just shouts as if she does and that’s what matters.
“It’s all going to be surreal because I’ve worked so hard for seven months so I can’t wait for it all to pay off.”
Keep up with all the news from Premiership Women's Rugby at thepwr.com