‘Oh you like Rugby, you must like watching the muscly men play.’
‘You must be a groupie!’
As a woman who is very passionate about rugby, these comments are 90% of the time wrong, not to mention hurtful and offensive to the women who play, coach and are generally passionate about the game.
But when did this generalisation of female fans become commonplace?
It was acceptable as a teenager when from the young age of 13, I watched my brother progress from playing for his boarding school team through to when he made the TAS and Darling Downs teams as a 16/17 year old going to the State championships and then as a player for the Premier Colts with GPS.
By the time I was a senior, I was watching my fellow class members in the first XV and attending special trips to Ballymore organised by my school to watch and cheer on the Queensland Reds.
This was all accepted and encouraged for both female and males, as we attended a school that was rugby mad and it was a privilege to be good enough to play in the first XV.
But now being a young, single female in my mid-20s interested in rugby it has been a major struggle for me. Not necessarily from people who actually know me and have grown up with me but from strangers or men who naturally assume I want to snare a rugby player.
People are easy to judge women because a small percentage do take the supporting too far and are only interested in the men not the actual sport.
At the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, a friend of mine and I were watching the Australia v South Africa game in Wellington. We were seated at the stadium near a group of men who were initially rude but once the game started and they started speaking to us and observed that we knew positions, rules, and more passionate about the actual game then they were. They were very surprised that “two blondes” knew rugby more then they did.
I am all about breaking the stereotype and proving people wrong! Women in rugby is actually a positive thing and needs to be celebrated.
I recently started at Sunnybank Rugby Union Club as Premier Colts Manager. Before my first training session, I was sitting in my car near the clubhouse trying to get the courage to walk into training and was worried about the looks and response I was going to get by the members.
I really had nothing to worry about as I have been accepted and welcomed with open arms. The club is really moving in the right direction and encouraging women in rugby. I know we are in pre-season at the moment but I am 100% sure that this will not be my only year as a manager for Sunnybank. It is a fabulous club and I feel like I am taken seriously and am part of the Sunnybank family already.
I believe the rugby environment can be fun and women in rugby can be successful if they are professional and are there for the right reasons. It is a sport that can be coached, managed and supported by both sexes.
Let’s hope that the stereotype of woman in rugby can change and we can feel comfortable to watch and learn about the sport. I know I will always be a fan and will continue to promote the game and women getting involved.
2012 – Year of the Reds and Dragon