Seattle, Vancouver, Edmonton, Dubai – these rugby destinations mark just the second half of Emily Fulbrook’s 2021. The Virginia native won a club 7s national championship, scored a try on debut for the USA 7s, and experienced the splendor that is the Dubai Invitational with Phoenix (aka, Scinix). And 2022 has the potential to be equally memorable, both rugby and life wise.
“2021 has been a whirlwind,” the 26-year-old confirmed.
Fulbrook played rugby in high school and helped Fairfax Police Youth Club (FPYC) to one of several Virginia state championships. [Side note: Current Scion teammate Bridget Kahele was an FPYC championship team member in the early 2010s]. Fulbrook entered the USA system through the now-dormant Stars & Stripes system, which would pull standouts from the regional all-star tournaments and bring them together for assemblies and games. The power runner then thrived at James Madison University, and doubled up the national exposure by representing the Dukes at college 7s nationals and the CRCs, and then booting up for the senior club season in the summer. Fulbrook debuted at the Club 7s National Tournament in 2015 and the then-collegian helped NOVA to a 9th-place finish.
The subsequent year, Fulbrook joined Scion for the club 7s season and played alongside teammates like current USA 7s captain Abby Gustaitis and Rugby World Cup Eagles Kimber Rozier (who is still actively representing the Sirens), Stacey Bridges, Sam Pankey and Sara Parsons. Scion won the 2016 national title and Fulbrook scored the final try of the championship against the now-defunct Old Blue women. From that point onward, Fulbrook has played 7s with Scion and 15s with NOVA.
The 2021 Club 7s National Championship was the first domestic competition to return in its entirety since Covid-19. And when it came time for the field to assemble in Tukwila, outside of Seattle, Scion was the title favorite. A round team game stifled the opposition and deployed weapons with every pass of the ball. Fulbrook brought that trademark burst off the line, on both sides of the ball, and helped the Sirens to a 6-0 runout. The trophy marked the second-ever title for Scion, the first coming in 2016.
“During Club 7s [nationals], Scion was able to showcase all of the hard work and time we have been putting into every training and tournament,” Fulbrook reflected on the mid-August tournament. “I am super thankful for Joanne Liu and Toshi Palamo for all of their knowledge of the game and hard work to ensure we felt prepared to take home the championship.”
Photo: Alex Ho
Less than a month later, Fulbrook was back on the West Coast, but north of the border. A new competition – the Fast Four – brought Canada, USA, Mexico and Great Britain to Vancouver and then Edmonton for consecutive tournaments. The games were opportunities to work teams’ depth.
“We have a team of talented players who worked hard developing in our residency and academy programs over the last year to ensure we can continue growing the program’s presence on the international stage, evolve our playing philosophies, and have continuity not only through Paris 2024 but LA 2028,” USA 7s head coach Emilie Bydwell told USA Rugby when still serving as interim head coach after Chris Brown’s departure.
“Our goal is to allow each player to express their individual playing identity, while also being as threatening as possible as a unit. I think the USA Rugby community will be excited to watch this team grow together and see many of our future 7s stars begin their journey with the Senior Women’s 7s team.”
Fulbrook was the injury reserve for the first stop but then got the call-up for Edmonton and debut cap.
Fulbrook’s first USA 7s try / Photos: USA Rugby
“The opportunity to play at Fast Four was incredible,” Fulbrook looked on the mid-September tournaments. “I have been playing rugby for the past 12 years now, and it has always been a dream of mine to put on the USA jersey with my last name on the back. I learned a lot and I was able to use what I learned from Scion and bring it to the international stage. I was able to score my first international try [against Mexico] as well!”
The Canadian touring squad featured mostly uncapped players and a handful of 7s residents. Several of the newer players (Alex Sedrick, Summer Harris Jones, Jaz Gray, Lote Tausinga) were selected to the opening leg of the 2021-22 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in Dubai. Fulbrook, too, booked travel to the United Arab Emirates, but for the Dubai Invitational with a combined Phoenix and Scion squad.
“This was my first time ever in Dubai and it was incredible,” Fulbrook raved. “I loved the rugby atmosphere and the amount of people there who were supporting the game. I absolutely loved every second of it.”
To boot, Fulbrook and team were able to stay with teammate Jade McGrath’s parents, who still reside in Abu Dhabi. That added personal connection made the trip that much more memorable.
“I was able to play with some of my club 7s teammates but more importantly, play with new teammates who are from around the world that have played with Phoenix before,” Fulbrook explained. “We were able to meet up days before the matches started and we understood each other’s strengths and weaknesses and built a team from there. Covid impacted the player pools for each of our teams so we made the most of it and took the opportunity to collaborate.”
Scinix went 4-1 in the tournament, defeating France Developmental 24-19, Georgia 51-5, Germany 15-10 and Ireland Developmental 19-17; and losing 29-5 to Poland.
“The competition was challenging, but that’s the best part,” Fulbrook enthused. “Our toughest game was our loss to Poland. Overall, they were a very strong team and loads of skills and we were not ready. The most memorable game was our first game against the French Development team. We were tied in overtime, and I had the pleasure of scoring the
winning try for my team. The stadium was definitely shocked, but we weren’t. We trained for this, followed our system, and stood on top.”
Fulbrook scored the winning try vs. France Developmental / Photo: Phoenix Rugby
After the Dubai Invitational, the team was able to watch the HSBC event and the USA men’s and women’s teams.
“It’s always awesome to cheer on former teammates as they represent the country,” Fulbrook added. “Being able to cheer on USA men’s and women’s [teams] live in a foreign country playing against other international teams in a full stadium while we played in the stadium next door was an amazing feeling.”
It’s been a big year, but Fulbrook is eager to take on new challenges in 2022. First up is the LA 7s with Scion, and then it’s a return to the 15s pitch with NOVA. The Piranhas are currently 4-0 in the DI East and have outscored opponents 300-0. Fulbrook, who has been playing fullback and sometimes wing, has scored four tries this season. NOVA is the reigning DI national champion, a title that was last contested in June 2019.
“Life wise, I just committed to graduate school at Shenandoah University in Leesburg, Virginia, where I will be a part of their dual degree program,” Fulbrook closed. “A dual degree consists of a Masters of Science of Athletic Training and a Doctorate in Physical Therapy. I’ve been waiting for this part of my life to start and I cannot wait to begin!”