A Women’s Place is in the Maul – Julia Singer

from Ryding 2 Health:

It’s a game that’s been around since the early 19th century; one of bone-crunching hits, blazing speed and high intensity. It’s played in over 50 nations, with skill and age levels from youth to premier and international teams. But it was not too long ago that women were left out of the highest levels of competition and made to sit on the sidelines watching their male counterparts advance the sport. In 2011, however, that is no longer the case.

Last year, the International Olympic Committee voted to allow rugby 7s, a variation on the more common rugby 15s, back into the Olympic games of 2016. This news rocketed the sport of rugby
union to new heights of popularity and interest, seeing international participation rise to new heights. It was a boost that women’s rugby needed, and there’s no better time than now to dive into the world of rugby. Just ask Kate Porter, a member of Australia’s 2010 Women’s Rugby World Cup team; “Rugby can be played by anyone, you just have to have the courage to give it a go.”

But female rugby players find themselves at many disadvantages, including the inability to “go pro” and therefore having to work full- time jobs on top of training and playing for their respective
teams. Porter is a captain in the Australian Defence Force and must divide her time between her work hours, physical training,  rugby training and playing for several teams. “Sometimes I feel
like I spread myself too thin over the different teams and my club team seems to suffer the most from it. As to balancing a full time job, training before and after work is how I get around the training part. I’ve had to train on my own whilst on exercise with work,” she said, reflecting on how her commitment to the Australian Services Rugby Union (playing for the Australian Army), the West Bulldogs (her club team) and the Australia Wallaroos, Australia’s national women’s rugby team. While it may be harder for women working full- time to play rugby at social or competitive levels, Porter assures any future ruggers that the hurdles standing in the way are more than worth the hassle. “Not having the time is not a reason for not playing rugby or any other sport. If you want it enough, you’ll find a way to make it happen,” she said of time management issues.

Porter, like most women’s rugby players, assures that involvement in the women’s rugby movement is more than worth the time and work female rugby players are putting in all over the world. “You will be able to play a sport that you never thought possible. The best part is working together as a team to achieve a goal that everyone had sweated, bled and worked hard to get.”

As in every sport, there are still those who doubt and criticise women in hard-hitting contact sports like rugby. It is hard to find a female rugby player that has not faced her share of sneers, jibes and naysaying – even at premier and international levels, women face a hard time attracting fresh faces to the sport, and often play matches in front of only a few dozen spectators at most. Some rugby columnists even liken the resistance to women in rugby to the resistance of women in the military and on the front lines; both experiences Porter knows first-hand. “I would be lying if I said I’d never had a problem with people turning their nose up at women playing rugby and their role in the Defence Forces, however I strongly believe those opinions aren’t worth listening to,” she said. And much like many of her fellow women’s rugby players, she takes the hits as they come and has no regrets or hesitation when it comes to the profession and the sport she loves. “I’ll play rugby if I want to, and I love it. I’ll be a member of our Australian Defence Force if I want to, and I’m proud to say I love that as well.”

No matter what your age or physical capabilities, there’s a team that would love to bring you into the world of women’s rugby; so what are you waiting for?

Julia Singer

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