New Ballymore facility latest piece in Women's Rugby explosion

Thu, Jun 29, 2023, 3:28 AM
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson

The new $31.5 million state-of-the-art facility at Ballymore is a game changer for women's Rugby in Australia.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk opened the new-look National Rugby Training Centre (NRTC) along with a host of dignitaries including Federal and State Ministers, current Wallaroos and Reds players and legends of the game.

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It reflects the rising growth of Women's Rugby and Sport in Australia, with the venue becoming the new national headquarters for Women’s XV Rugby along with hosting the Brisbane Roar's Women's A-League fixtures.

The redevelopment of Ballymore has been on the cards for close to 15 years, however, it was the support for the women's game that got the approval across the line and attracted the split funding from the State and Federal Governments ($15 million each).

"This has been years in the making but now the dream has become a reality," Palaszczuk said to reporters.

"This new centre gives the Wallaroos a home for the future. As we've seen across all the different codes, there has been a 20% increase in women participating which is a good thing, particularly in the lead-up to the Brisbane 2032 Olympics, with the hockey played here.

"We already have a venue ready to go which is great news and a legacy item that will be utilised for the next nine years in the lead-up to the Games."

The opening of the new site at Ballymore. Photo: Brenden Hertel/RA Media
The opening of the new site at Ballymore. Photo: Brenden Hertel/RA Media

The reality is if the facility was built back when it was first proposed, the women's facilities would be minimal compared to what the NRTC has in place.

Players got a chance to work through the building on Thursday, in awe of the brand new gym and specialist Wallaroos/Reds Super W change rooms, no longer forced to either share with the guys or change somewhere else before a game.

The building also recognises the history of the game from a Reds and Wallaroos perspective.

There's a massive mural of Selena Worsley as you enter the Wallaroos' rooms whilst John Eales sits in the same place for the Reds' Men side.

Recently retired Wallaroos captain Shannon Parry is emblazoned on the wall with fellow Queensland icon Liz Patu and was quick to take a photo with herself when given the tour.

She is joined along the walls by current Wallaroos and Reds Ivania Wong, Ellie Draper and Madi Schuck interchanged with the likes of Will Genia and the 2011 Super Rugby triumphs.

"What it means to be a woman in Rugby is outstanding itself and to have facilities and recognition like this of the work we're putting in, not even for women but what it'll do for the growth of community (Rugby) is incredible," Wallaroos captain Piper Duck said.

"We're now in a Golden Decade in Rugby and to have facilities like this, people getting behind Rugby means a lot for us athletes."

Shannon Parry with Shannon Parry as the Olympic Gold Medalist poses with a photo of herself and Liz Patu. Photo: Brenden Hertel/RA Media
Shannon Parry with Shannon Parry as the Olympic Gold Medalist poses with a photo of herself and Liz Patu. Photo: Brenden Hertel/RA Media

As you walk up the stairs towards the board room and offices, the plethora of trophies line the walls as the meeting rooms overlook the new ground, which will get its first test on Saturday as the Queensland U18 Academy sides hosts their NSW counterparts.

It's the second brand new specialist Rugby facility that has been built in the past 12 months with Ballymore mirroring the Waratahs' new centre of excellence in Daceyville on a bigger scale.

There's an aquatic recovery centre and sauna for players after training whilst the massive gym has enough space to practice lineouts inside whilst backing straight onto the field.

"It's a monumental moment to be able to bring Ballymore back which has a fond place in everyone's heart in the sporting community of Queensland," QRU CEO Dave Hanham added, who was almost in tears talking about what the place meant to himself and Rugby in Queensland during the opening.

With the centre developed on time and to budget, discussions then turned to who should be immortalised in bronze to celebrate the opening.

Suncorp is filled with statues of men's athletes but there is no sign of women's representation, with Netball legend Laura Geitz the only female athlete recognised at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.

Current Wallaroos captain Piper Duck threw up her predecessor Shannon Parry, who'd make for a great choice. Parry in typical fashion deflected the chat and looked to trailblazers such as Worsley and Vanessa Bradley.

"What a great idea and we'll listen to the nominees that get put up. We actually have a program at the moment where we've asked the members of the public to put forward which famous women should have statues after them," Palaszczuk said on the potential of a statue at Ballymore.

"It lends itself to having a Queensland Women Rugby Union player to have something here."

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