'Nightmare': Ellia Green opens up on mother's devastating death

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Ellia Green, pictured here with mother Yolanta after winning gold at the 2016 Olympics.
Ellia Green with mother Yolanta after winning gold at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Image: AAP

Aussie rugby sevens star Ellia Green has opened up about the tragic death of her mother and the difficult decision she made to play at the 2018 World Cup while her mum was at her sickest.

Green’s mother Yolanta died in August of 2018 after a long-running battle with cancer. She was just 68.

Speaking exclusively to Yahoo Sport Australia for the 'Mind Games' series, Green revealed how she wanted to withdraw from the World Cup in July of that year to be with her mother.

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Just weeks before the Olympic gold medalist and her teammates were due to fly to San Francisco for the World Cup, she received a phone call that changed her life.

"My mum had been sick quite a few times before this but she had overcome it every single time," Green said.

"It was like she was superwoman - she could fight anything and that's exactly what I had always thought.

"I got this phone call from my mum's doctor and also from my godmother saying 'your mum has a brain tumour' and 'not just one, she has several'.

"They said 'we can treat it but it's not going to save her life'. And that's when I realised that this was a real nightmare that we were about to face together.

"Having my mum on my mind and having to prepare for one of the biggest competitions of my life was going to be a challenge to a whole new level."

Green said she was prepared to stay home with her mum and miss the World Cup, but her mum wouldn't have it.

"I thought of quitting many times. Anyone that knows me well knows that my mum is my No.1 in everything I do," she said.

"I said: 'I won't play this World Cup and I'm just going to be with you here every single day, every day by your side.

"And she said to me: 'Ellia, I'm going to get more sick if you don't go and not only that, I'll be miserable that you didn't go'.

"That was a shock to me. I thought: 'why wouldn't you want to be with me every day?'"

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Ellia Green's 'really tough time' at World Cup

Green said her mental health began to suffer during the devastating time, but her mum's reassurances kept her going.

Ellia and Yolanta spoke every day while she was in San Francisco, even as her mum's health deteriorated.

"She always said 'what will happen will happen' and 'you have to be strong and you have to keep training'," Green said.

"Every day I was thinking about her and missing her and crying and thinking 'you need to snap out of this, you have a job to get done. You can't sit here sulking and crying because your mum didn't raise you that way'.

"I was doing a lot of talking to myself, but thinking how sad you are and how shit things are is not going to change the situation. You need to do this job for mum and the team and our country.

"The two weeks that I was in San Francisco were a huge challenge, but I was on the phone to my mum every day and face-timing.

"At this stage my mum was very, very sick. She couldn't even hold a phone.

"Every time I face-timed her they had to control the phone and I'd have to call the hospital to put me on the phone to my mum. So that was a really, really tough time."

Ellia Green, pictured here in action at the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens.
Ellia Green in action at the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham - World Rugby via Getty Images/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Mum watched on as Ellia Green won bronze

While Green and her teammates didn't walk away with the gold medal, they managed to beat the Americans on their home turf to claim bronze.

And Green's biggest fan was watching from the other side of the world.

"My mum and all the other patients in the hospital had watched the game," she said.

"They put all the hospital beds together and watched in the room, and that really filled my heart."

While Green may have lost her mother, she says her teammates will always be her family.

"One of the biggest things that helped me overcome these mind games in terms of dealing with mum's illness and grieving was just remembering why I'm even here and my purpose in life," she said.

"Every time I walk through that door at training I feel so loved and wanted and cared for, and I know that's my family.

"In turn I'll do anything for them, I'll put my body on the line for them every time I pull on the green and gold jersey."

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