Being a WAG (Wife and Girlfriend of famous sportsmen) can often lead to a life of fame and glamour. However, what about the HABs (Husbands and Boyfriends) of the industry? Australia’s elite sportswomen share their experience as their partners watch their success from the sidelines.
Missing days of training, spending hundreds on plane tickets and skipping university classes are all part of the deal when you are dating one of Australia’s top sportswomen. Ben Fenlon, 24, who is currently studying industrial design in Melbourne, balances a three-year relationship with part time work and competitive sport on Sunday’s.
His girlfriend, Caitlin Reid is 21 and currently plays in the NBL for the Albury Wodonga Bandits which is the second highest basketball league within Australia. Reid used to play representative basketball in Singapore and later for UNSW when she moved to Australia, which involved competing against other international universities at a very competitive level.
Although Fenlon is supportive of all of Reid’s sporting success, her extensive training commitments and constant travel has become difficult to keep up with.
“[My training schedule] is pretty intense, we have three compulsory team trainings a week, which span for about two or three hours long. On top of that, we have three or four-hour fitness sessions. Before games you are also expected to be there four hours before hand.” Reid says.
“I also have to travel a lot for a lot of my games. For example, in the next couple of weeks I have to go to Tasmania and then I have to go to Geelong, Melbourne and Canberra.” Reid says.
Early into their relationship the nightly routine of face-timing for 20 minutes was an essential part of staying connected. However, after three years of dating a mere electronic face-to-face conversation doesn’t suffice and now real sacrifices are being made.
“Someone’s got to make the sacrifice to see each other because face to face, obviously, is the best way to keep a relationship strong.” Fenlon says.
“At the moment Ben is making all the sacrifices.” Reid Says.
Sonya Broadhead, is 44 years old, a wife to Glen Broadhead and the mother of two boys Mason who is 15 and Riley who is 11. When she is not juggling work commitments as a business owner at an optometry in Thirroul or household duties, she plays competitive hockey for the Avondale Raiders Women side.
Sonya’s intensive training consists of four or five nights a week and fitness drills every morning. However, after an intense accident from hockey in 2016, Glen took on the majority of the domestic duties of the household.
“He was driving the boys everywhere and picking up where I couldn’t.” Sonya Broadhead says.
Although Sonya and Glen try not to be competitive with each other, the stress of playing at such a high level can often take its toll on both partners.
“I’m always the calm one and Glen’s the one who needs to duck outside for some air when the team isn’t doing well.” Sonya says.
“I’m sure part of him looks forward to the offseason because it’s one less thing to worry about! And he can live another half year in peace without worrying that I’ll get my face busted open again!”
Ben Fenlon feels the pressure sometimes, juggling his own commitments as well as Caitlin Reid’s intensive sporting regime. The two share a passion for sports, however, their competitive nature sometimes puts a strain on their relationship.
“We’re very very competitive. Ben plays soccer for his university and he’s the captain. So there’s a bit of rivalry in regards to not just accolades but… who’s making the sacrifice.” Reid says.
Sonya and Glen Broadhead believe that organization is key to balancing their busy schedules. However, Ben’s role in the house is crucial in order for Sonya to be successful as an elite woman athlete.
“I think Glen and I are probably lacking a lot of sleep, that has built up over the years.” Sonya says.
“[However], if I didn’t have his help on the days when I’m playing hockey from morning to night, that’d be it. I probably wouldn’t be able to keep playing sport.”
In a day and age where WAG’s saturate mainstream media for their looks and various dating scandals. The HAB’s of the industry often get forgotten. Fenlon, supports Reid in her various sporting commitments but also has to dedicate a lot of time out of his busy schedule to go and visit her in order to make the relationship work.
“A good example, is that I’ve missed two training sessions this week so I can come see her.” Ben Says.
“So, there is that aspect of letting down my own team a bit, to make the relationship work.”
“My personal opinion is that the HABs are being a little ignored. The coach of my team is Lauren Jackson, who is arguably one of Australia’s elite sportswomen and nobody knows about her partner. Whereas you can compare that to Andy Murray whose girlfriend is very high profile. The wives and girlfriends have a bit more of a glamour role.” Reid says.
While Ben Fenlon and Glen Broadhead, don’t mind supporting their partners, their extensive efforts as supportive HABs are not always publicized or acknowledged.
“It’s probably a bit sexist but the women getting all glammed up to go to fancy sporting events is something that people want to read about in the entertainment pages. Husbands and boyfriends… aren’t as exciting.” Sonya Broadsheet says.
“[Glen] picks up a lot of the housework… and all the women on my team, their husbands are the same.”
“I think lots of families are taking on this dynamic, there’s not a lot of that traditional house-wife/male-bread- winner thing going on anymore.”
Chloe Esposito, 27, was the first female to win an Olympic gold medal in modern pentathlon at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. She then got married to Matt Cooper, right after Rio in 2016.
Esposito told Olympic.org, “we have weekends where… we do have downtime, but most of the time he is just coming to training sessions with me. Esposito says, “Tokyo is my final goal. I am sure I’d have another Olympics in me. But my husband has seen me in my bad days and he’s like, “Nah, Nah, after Tokyo you are going to stop, that’s it, I can’t go through this again.”
Having a gorgeous physique, multimillion dollar incomes, and celebrity status more often than not become the reality for many of the WAGs of top male athletes. However, the reality for a HAB is quite the opposite. While Ben Fenlon and Glen Broadhead provide encouragement and support to their successful partners, apart from a few logistical hiccups and scheduling issues, these HABs live out relatively ordinary lives.
“However, personally I think that husbands and boyfriends [purposefully] like to stay out of the spotlight to avoid the criticism and scrutiny that is laid onto the WAGs.” Fenlon says.
*Please see Madeleine’s piece-to-camera