Women and Girls Rugby – 2015-2016 Season Review

Women and Girls Rugby – 2015-2016 Season Review

Helen Duggan

Women & Girls Chair

Growing the game:

Women and girls rugby within Lancashire is going from strength to strength.

Lots of volunteers across the county are turning out week-in week-out, coaching, administering, raising money and often for many parents, ferrying the players around. Without these volunteers we could not continue to grow the women’s and girls’ section across Lancashire, which we have continued to do this year.

We currently have 81 clubs, including universities, taken part in rugby from touch to full 15-a side contact.  There has been great work taking place with the development of the Local Rugby Partnerships, which has been rolled out by the RFU targeting specific clubs and regions.

This has helped create 12 new seniors teams, from new women’s side being created from scratch, through contact and touch rugby, or existing clubs building their base and setting up a second team. We also continued to grow the youth section, with seven new teams across U13s,U15s and U18s.

The success and the hard work is not limited to one area of the county. In the south of Lancashire we have Littleborough in their first year as part of a Local Rugby Partnership Club, starting with no player base in 13/14, but now having full U13s, U15s and U18s sides.  They are now starting to build their ladies section and I know they will make it a success.

In Greater Manchester four more clubs will join local partnerships (Old Bedians, Broughton Park, Bolton and Didsbury Toc H) and we hope it will generate a number of new woman’s’ sides to add to the great work taking place at Eccles, Leigh and Littleborough –  where eight new sections have already grown in the last three seasons.

North Lancashire has seen the greatest expansion of players across all age groups this year.  Around 134 new players have started playing rugby across 8 new sections within the first year of the region being within the Local Rugby Partnership. Clubs working hard to expand and grow the game include Clitheroe, Fleetwood, Burnley, Vale of Lune Ladies and Preston Grasshoppers, who alone have set up three new sections.

Merseyside have continued to grow with a new U13s section at West Park St Helens, they have a large number of volunteers who have invested in the section and helped bring in at least 10 new players.

Representative rugby:

The Lancashire youth section campaign for 2015/16 had mixed results.

The U18s lost against Yorkshire, for the first time in five years. A number of players had moved on from youth to senior rugby and there was also a large influx of new players who were stepping up to the new age banding. They did, however, finish their season on a high with a resounding win against Northumberland, winning 68-0. With more than 70 girls taking part in the trials demonstrating the section is growing across the county.

The u15’s also had mixed season with a loss against Yorkshire but a resounding win again Northumberland 63-15.  Again there was an influx of new players and it was great to see more than 45 girls at the trials.

We have also continued our tradition of providing players to the elite programs. Of our u15s seven were chosen for the North of England training academy.  It was also nice to see that there was a spread of five clubs represented in the North squad, another indication that the strength in the player base is starting to develop as well.

We had eight players selected for the North of England u18s academy and four players were selected last year as part of the u20s squad Sally Stott, Rachael Woosey. Holly Aitchison and Molly Morrissey.  They will hopefully be joined by Sarah Beckett and Amelia Cadman this year who have been invited to trial for the U20’s.

The senior ladies campaign has just started as the report is being written. It started with a decisive victory over Cumbria (55-0), a tougher win over Northumberland (24-33) with the last home game against Durham deciding who goes to the semi-final. For the first time the ladies are taking apart in a national Senior County Cup Competition, with the final being at The Stoop on 29 May. (editors note – despite a heroic performance, our ladies were not able to win the final against Surrey)

Four years ago the squad was picked from around 25 ladies who trialled and only two teams in Lancashire were normally represented. This year we had more than 100 women trial from clubs as well as universities. The final county squad selected is representing fourteen different teams. Some only play rugby at University, which has been one of the links we have been trying to build over recent years.

Finally a thank you. Thank you to all the RFU staff who has supported the women and girls across Lancashire this season, you have been invaluable to the clubs and teams. A personal thank you to Claire Antcliffe as our WRDO. Her unwavering confidence in Lancashire’s ability to grow the game and enthusiasm is infectious. Also a big thank you to Peter Morrissey, he has helped steer the ship of the representative teams for a number of years and will be stepping down at the end of this season. 

We have some big plans and some big aims in the coming seasons to grown the game across the county and build a stronger base. We are getting closer to 2020 – the 30th anniversary of the first ever women’s representative county game, against Yorkshire. I hope by our 30th Year we achieve our goal that no girl or woman has to travel more than 30 minutes to play rugby in Lancashire. So the push for us now is 30 by 30.