First girls’ rugby competition in Australia set to kickoff

Katie Wood, Empower Rugby participant. Photo courtesy of Empower Rugby

Rugby is the fastest growing girls’ sport in the world and there’s now an avenue for girls to play it in Australia on a regular basis, with the first regular girls’ rugby tens competition set to kickoff in Canberra in early May.

The competition is being delivered by the ACT Junior Rugby Union (ACTJRU) and the Brumbies and is several years in the making.

Last year, the ACTJRU approached local education company, forty2, to develop a safety, skills and mentoring program that would enable girls with no prior rugby experience to build the confidence and capacity to begin playing.

From this, Empower Rugby was born, a schools-based program for girls aged 12 to 18. The six-week program provides a direct pathway into the new girls’ competition. If a school is not directly entering a team, Empower Rugby will work with the staff of the school and local clubs to find the best team for students individually, or as a group.

The first Empower Rugby for girls’ program ran last year and was a success with several local schools going on to develop a program specific to their school. The latest Empower Rugby program has just got underway with girls able to come to a ‘Come and Try Session’ if they’re unsure whether they want to play.

Ben Vaughan, founder of Empower Rugby, said that one of the main concerns of parents was the safety of their girls in a contact sport, which is why the number one priority of the program is safety. “One of the greatest obstacles to girls participating in contact sport is parents’ perception of injury risk. There is an element of risk in all physical activity, but we approach this head on by ensuring that all Empower Rugby girls are given all necessary skills, awareness and self-confidence to minimise the risk. Based on a 2013 study by Sports Medicine Australia, ballet was found to be a higher risk activity,” he said.

The inaugural girls’ rugby competition will be aligned with the regular junior rugby season and will be played on Saturdays. There will be two age groups, U14/15 and U16/17. The first six rounds will be gala days to help promote the games and to create a club atmosphere around the girls. The last six rounds will be home and away rounds with all teams assured of a home game.

This year, Empower Rugby is aiming to organise rugby matches between girls’ schools in Canberra, Wellington, Singapore and Japan to help increase the depth of girl talent in Australia, as well as providing girls with the exciting opportunity to travel overseas through sport.

All of this equals another enormous step towards recognising the importance of regular sport opportunities for girls.

Big Time Sports Writer

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