World Cup could be catalyst for Wallaroos

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Former Wallaroos captain Nickie Wickert says a successful Women’s World Cup could open the doors for XVs growth.

Australia has been a pioneer in many ways for women’s rugby, the first country to fully professionalise its women’s Sevens program ahead of the 2016 Olympics, but XVs remains amateur.

Few countries have professional XVs programs, with even England flagging an end to its professional roster after this World Cup, moving into a cyclical model, where contracts will be offered between Sevens and XVs depending on upcoming events.

Wickert captained the Wallaroos in the 1998 World Cup in Amsterdam and said Sevens success had already catalysed women’s XVs progress but joy for the Wallaroos would only help.

“A good showing at the World Cup would be super important to the progress of women's rugby,” she said.

“I work at a boys’ school - they want to watch, it doesn’t matter whether they’re watching women or men, they love rugby.

“Them doing well would be a big step forward."

Wickert presented the Wallaroos with their jerseys on Tuesday morning in Sydney and said she was excited to see what they could produce in Ireland.

“That’s the million dollar question,” she said.

“If they play to their potential and they all just stick together as a team and don’t implode by getting overwhelmed by the whole situation, anything’s possible.”

Wickert said she felt XVs could thrive alongside Sevens, with a little bit more attention.

“It is the game for everyone, all shapes and sizes, and I think that’s maybe what’s held it back in the past,” she said.

“Sevens is very marketable, winning a gold medal has made them very marketable but that’s okay, whatever gets it out there.

“But then there’ll be the girl who won’t be able to play Sevens who will have an opportunity to play XVs.

“If they can coach them and teach them like they did with the Sevens - they did that, they went and targeted particular athletes from other sports, brought them together, taught them how to play sevens and they were successful.

“If they did the same thing with the XVs, they could do anything.”

Wickert said she’d like to see a domestic competition, like NRC or  Super Rugby, for XVs, a concept that has been floated in the past but would be seemingly logistically and financially difficult to implement.

“Girls play club and then they play one nationals tournament. It would be fabulous if they had some sort of Super Rugby for women, just like the AFL have done,” she said.

“That’s been super successful.

“I’m worried that the other sports are getting a jump on rugby and getting all the good women athletes to sign up with them because there’s somewhere for them to go and play competitively.”