Sister, I’ve got your back: the women of rugby

July 13, 2016

It’s not often that women are in such a physical environment and you really need to have each other’s backs

Above: The extended women’s rugby family happy after a win (wearing charity jerseys)

We hear them before we see them… boom box blaring in the change rooms, then chattering like a flock of beautiful, bright rainbow lorikeets as they head to their warm-up. But make no mistake, the women’s rugby team is as hardworking, supportive and physical as their male counterparts.

We mums are in awe and the respect shown by the men’s teams  as they tunnel them on is there for all to see.

Vira Kite
Vira Kite

I spoke to Vira Kite (forward) and Tiana Tamati (back) from the GPS Women’s rugby team to find out more about one of the world’s fastest growing women’s sports.

About the players

Vira is the undisputed ‘mother hen’ of the team and for her, rugby is a family affair. Her husband Mote is coach, her sister-in-laws play in the team and Mote’s brothers have all coached or managed the team in the past. Their kids are having a great time in their own special area when I arrive.

Vira has played for four years and although she is playing hooker now, she prefers being a prop. But like all dedicated rugby players you fit in where you’re needed.

Michelle Beesley with speedsters Tiana Tamati (halfback) and Kayla Tukuafu (wing)
Michelle Beesley with speedsters Tiana Tamati (halfback) and Kayla Tukuafu (wing)

Tiana is halfback and has been playing rugby for five years. She began by playing touch footy until friends urged her to have a go at rugby. She loves it and is supremely fit, a testament to her dedication to  training .

“Most girls find out about rugby through friends and many come to rugby after playing touch footy or soccer,” Tiana says.

Vira adds, “Several girls had never played any sport, hardly picked up a ball and are now on the team. Some just join for the fitness and fun aspect and are not keen to play but many change their mind after coming to a few games.”

Is it harder for women?

“We don’t feel like its harder playing rugby as a woman,” Tiana says. “We’re like a family here. You look forward to training as a stress release and when you have a passion you find ways to make time for it.”

Vira agrees. “You make friends for life. It’s not often that women are in such a physical environment and you really need to have each other’s backs. You will bleed for  your sisters.”

What sort of  women play rugby?

Regardless of your shape or size, you’ve got a place in a rugby team.

“In our team we have women ranging in age from 16 to 35 and they come from all walks of life,” Vira says. “Mums like me, teachers, students, childcare workers, defence personnel and people working in administrative roles.

“It’s not all rugby – we have team dinners , parties and camps at places like Tallebudgera,” she says.

Parties, hey? Mm, maybe they’ll waver the (old) age limit for me… if only I could run, kick and tackle. Well, my passing’s not bad.

Pathways in rugby

In 15-a-side rugby, our national side is called the Wallaroos and to make this side is every woman  rugby player’s dream.

“The number eight for GPS, Alisha Hewett,  has already been a Wallaroo and looks set to do so again,” Vira says. “She is also a regular in the Australian Defence Force side.”

Tiana adds: “Number 10,  Marlugu Dixon, has also played for Queensland and is a player to watch out for.”

Some of the women will finish their season soon and Vira says many will head straight into a rugby sevens side.

Playing for the country

Rugby Sevens has been in the news recently as this is the first year it has been included as an Olympic sport. Our national team is World Champions,  so they look to be well placed for a medal.

The Wallaroos are also making history by playing the New Zealand side—the Black Ferns—as part of the Wallabies versus All Blacks Bledisloe Cup game in Auckland. It is exciting to know that 2017 will be a World Cup year for women’s rugby.

Get your boots on and join in

If you’re interested in playing, check out your local club for information on how to join next season. It’s full of fun, fitness, friendship and friendly rivalry between clubs.

As the girls head off to train I tell them I’ve always thought I’d love to play number eight. I could just see myself zooming off the back of the scrum scoring tries. They look pretty skeptical. Okay, perhaps I’ll just  stick to the sidelines cheering on these stars  of the future. I am after all really excellent at clapping. Go GPS!

Michelle Beesley
Freelance writer, wife and mother of three sons, occasional supply teacher and aspiring romance author, Michelle Beesley can be most often found in a coffee shop chatting with friends or beside a rugby field cheering on her favourite teams.

Michelle is a prolific—albeit reluctant—traveller, keen walker, bookworm and yoga enthusiast who loves anything pink or sparkly (including champagne!).