Girls, girls, girls, young and not so young, took part in a highly successful gala carnival in women’s seven-a- side rugby union at Nabiac on Saturday in an introduction to the game’s limited format on the Lower Mid North Coast.
Six clubs and 70 players took part in an experimental round-robin tournament on an afternoon hailed as an outstanding success by players and officials alike, without prizes distributed or any team crowned carnival champions.
“Rugby union was the winner this afternoon. No cups or sashes, just an experience of the game itself,” Lee Sullivan said, co-ordinator of the carnival and head coach of the Wallamba Bulls men’s premiership-winning team this year and driving force behind the emergence of women’s rugby in the region.
“The whole idea of the carnival was to give the girls a taste of the game, to let them experience running the ball and satisfaction of saving a try with a good tackle.
“The afternoon was an outstanding success.”
Each of the six clubs, the Wallamba Bulls, the Forster Tuncurry Dolphins, the Manning River Ratz, the Gloucester Cockies, the Wauchope Thunder and Old Bar Clams, played three or four games of two seven-minute halves with unlimited interchange, the afternoon heat determining how many games each club played.
For girls, sixteen years and upwards, many of whom had never touched a football, the standard was pleasingly high, the handling and passing and instinctive ball skills exceptional.
Seventeen-year-old Ellie Johnston appeared every bit a representative player of the near future, a well-built, strong runner and magnificent head-on tackler.
Young speedsters to impress were Jessica Henwood, Aliyah Rodominsk, Jessica O’Brien and Mary-Lynn Matereke, a 20-year- old from Zimbabwe.
Nicole Cooke observed: “It was really enjoyable. I thought it would be scary, but it was so much fun.”
The Forster Dolphinettes’ coach, Mark Hudson, captain of the club’s 2008 premiership-winning team, considered the talent displayed exceptional, a major benefit he saw from the carnival being the number of families and children who enjoyed the afternoon.
Presidents of clubs at the carnival, Wallamba’s Arthur Chapman, Forster’s Damian Daczko and Manning River’s Jim Boyce and Gloucester’s ex-representative forward, Chris Marchant, were unanimous that women’s sevens will be played competitively in the area next winter.
For the Forster Dolphinettes, training will begin at Peter Barclay Field in Tuncurry on the first Tuesday of February next year.