New wave of women picking rugby

by Jill Scanlon

Women’s rugby is growing at unforeseen rates but it’s not just Queensland and New South Wales booming.

Even in the non-traditional states across the south, development and participation programs are at the top of the priority list for those in the rugby development community.

Last month, the  Women’s Rugby Development Association (WRDA), in partnership with the Victorian Rugby Union and Melbourne Rebels, held its annual Summer 10s tournament at the Harlequins Rugby Club in the suburbs of Melbourne.

Before the action got underway though, there was a ‘Come and Try’ session held for Youth Girls and the organisers were impressed with the turnout.

Victoria is currently prolific with the growth of women’s sport – mainly in the form of Women’s AFL – so attracting the attention of girls to a contact sport which is not as visible domestically as footy, is a tough gig.

VRU female development officer Samantha Homewood was one of those directing traffic on the field as teenagers rolled up to throw the ball around and show their skills.

“We had over 20 girls with about two-thirds of them new to rugby,” she said.

“There were a few girls who played in our Youth girls comp last year and who are in some of our school programs and then heaps came down that were very new.”

Homewood said last year’s Aussie Sevens gold medal had kickstarted a movement around schools, with girls more enthusiastic about their involvement.

“They want to get involved - particularly the independent girls schools, which are really keen. They are currently taking up our Viva7s (program), which is our non-contact version of Sevens, and then transitioning into full contact,” said Homewood.

“The Aussie women’s success has been awesome for the game and has really helped us,” she said.

Academy programs like the Fountain Gate Secondary Academy in Keysborough and the Iron Armour Academy in Melbourne’s west, which focus on rugby and skills outside of sport, are benefitting.

Homewood said that with the example of these two academies which often work together, the future for youth rugby in Victoria is very positive.

The VRU is working slowly but surely to build on the youth age group involvement, looking to lay a good foundation for the future development of female talent in Victoria.

“Last year we ran an U17 Youth Girls Rugby Sevens starting with Viva7s for the season and then transitioning to tackle – which ran well,” - Homewood.

“This year we are hoping to get U15s going that will do Viva7s and tackle and then U17s that will just do tackle for the whole season,” said Homewood.

Sessions like this Saturday morning’s are crucial for capitalising on the momentum created in women’s rugby.

When all said and done, it was a successful summer’s day of rugby in Melbourne – in more ways than one.

March 8 is International Women's Day. Are you ready to #BeBoldForChange? More info here.