Women’s rugby is starting to build on the East Coast.
Three teams have registered for the Ngati Porou East Coast union’s new club competition for women and David Newton has signed up as women’s rugby development officer.
Tihirau Victory Club were to play Ruatoria City two weeks ago but City didn’t have the numbers and lost by default.
The players still got on the park for a runaround, though, Newton said.
Today, TVC play Hicks Bay.
That will be the first hit-out for the Hicks Bay women and Newton said both clubs would field full squads.
“This is the beginning of something that we really want to get stronger,” he said.
The plan is for the competition to provide a platform for the union to select a representative sevens team to compete in a Central region tournament in November.
Longer term, they hope to have a strong enough player base to compete in the Farah Palmer Cup provincial 15s competition.
The club competition is starting out small but it should help provide pathways for women in the sport.
“We’ve always had talented players but no real avenue for them,” Newton said.
“We want to lay some local bricks (in the pathway).”
The girls’ game has been growing in Poverty Bay and on the Coast but providing players with opportunities after high school is a challenge.
Poverty Bay fielded a women’s sevens team in a national tournament last year. They also have u18 women’s sevens and 15s teams.
The Ngati Porou East Coast union has an under-15 girls’ grade in its junior rugby programme.
Newton said an East Coast team were training for a Hurricanes region tournament in September.
They also play in Gisborne on Friday afternoons in the Fulton Hogan Secondary Schools Grade against Lytton High School and Gisborne Girls’ High School.
Newton’s daughter Jordyn Tihore, 14, plays for Lytton.
She has been part of the girls’ rugby academy at the school for two years.
Newton and his wife Frankie have been volunteers in the sport for years.
He has coached East Coast age-group representative teams and junior rugby.
Newton said the sport needed to have systems to retain interest in girls’ rugby at high school and “generate more excitement and energy for that age group”.
That extended beyond players to managers, coaches, referees and assistant referees.
Poverty Bay Rugby Football Union chief executive Josh Willoughby said the union had hoped to compete in a combined Poverty Bay-East Coast women’s club competition this year but didn’t get enough local support to commit to it.
“This means we have more work to do supporting our clubs and women to get the women’s game going.”
He said opportunities to work with the Ngati Porou East Coast union could in future extend beyond the women’s game to the men’s game, too.
“A combined team in the Farah Palmer Cup would be fantastic but we need to get a sustainable model here locally before entering that conversation, and NPEC have a great start with Dave’s appointment.”
Poverty Bay is entering a team into the Hurricanes u18 girls’ tournament during the Term 3 school holidays, and is supporting Lytton and Girls’ High’s rugby programmes.
Poverty Bay will also enter a women’s sevens team into the regional qualifying tournament for the nationals.
NPEC chief executive Cushla Tangaere-Manuel said she was delighted Newton’s voluntary involvement in the sport had evolved into a paid position.
“Dave had already been involved as a junior rugby coach for several years and coached his daughter.”
Part of his brief is to increase the female participation rate in the sport.
by Grant Miller
Published: July 13, 2019 12:37PM