With the Australian rugby women’s sevens side riding the crest of a wave on the international scene, the Hunter-based body has established an innovative competition for young female players in 2019.
Hunter Junior Rugby Union (HJRU) this week released information on a new 10-a-side tournament for girls in the under 13, under 15 and under 17 age groups to kick off next May.
Some of the clubs already committed to fielding teams in the competition include Newcastle and Lake Macquarie-based Merewether-Carlton, Hamilton Hawks, the Waratahs, Easts, Southern Beaches-Wanderers, plus Nelson Bay Gropers from Port Stephens and Maitland.
HJRU president Julien Castaldi said it was exciting news for female rugby players, the HJRU and affiliated clubs.
“Both the organisation and rugby clubs have been seeking an opportunity for young women interested in playing rugby union to show their talents on the field,” said Castaldi.
“Under existing competition rules, girls up to the age of 12 years can play mixed gender rugby but there has been little pathway to continue their development and great enthusiasm for the code in later years.”
The 10-a-side player format will start on May 18 and continue for 11 rounds before grand finals in each age group.
“Local clubs have been pressing for such a competition because of the increasing interest of young girls in playing rugby,” said Castaldi.
“We know that girls and women’s sport is changing rapidly – just look at the successes of the Australian Women’s Sevens in winning gold at the Rio Olympics and the Super W Women’s competition this year in which a number of Hunter players were involved.
“That success at the top level is filtering down through the younger age groups and our new competition - believed to be the only one of its type in a NSW Country rugby zone - is anticipated to attract a lot of interest from girls in the 13 to 17 age bracket.”
Castaldi said the initiative was being built on the success of a Spring Rugby 7s competition for girls that HJRU conducted in 2018.
“We started the Girls Summer 7s in February to provide an opportunity for girls aged under 15 and under 17 to play the faster version of the game,” Castaldi added.
“The Spring competition has 10 teams in the under 15 division while the under 17s comprises six teams which reflects the interest from those age groups in playing rugby.
The HJRU is now focused on transferring that interest to a longer format of the game and its release this week of information about the new 10-a-side competition will allow clubs to start planning for 2019.
“The 10-a-side format (instead of 15 players per team) is designed to allow clubs to concentrate on building their player strength between now and May next year. It will also allow clubs to engage with a smaller team group while introducing those girls to the code.”