A change is going to come: Women in Rugby…Respect month fuelling women’s Rugby rise in Oceania

Tue, Sep 14, 2021, 1:09 AM
Oceania Rugby
by Oceania Rugby

A change is going to come: Women in Rugby…Respect month fuelling women’s Rugby rise in Oceania

Women in Rugby…Respect month reached the halfway mark this week, as Oceania Rugby and its Unions continue to engage with important conversations and energise communities about growing the women’s game.

The month, driven by Oceania Rugby’s with support from their regional partner, UN Women Fiji (MOC), has seen webinars made available to anyone across the Pacific, to generate discussion and allow people to learn from leaders within the game.

Oceania Rugby Sport for Development and Partnerships Manager, Erin Hatton has been at the forefront of Oceania’s work across the region and believes real progress is being made.

“Oceania Rugby has a priority around the development of the women’s game and women in Rugby all year. However, having an intense focus in a single month really lifts the prominence, visibility and energy around it for all of our Unions,” Hatton said.

“The number of activities and the creative nature of some of the initiatives that the Unions have come up with is very exciting.

“Putting all those things together really brings so much attention and acceptance. It also normalises girls and women in the game, in a sport that has been very male dominated in the past.”

Coming off the back of a highly successful Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games where New Zealand claimed their first Gold Medal in Rugby Sevens, combined with Fiji’s journey to Bronze that created headlines around the world; Hatton believes the seeds of real change have been planted.

“It was so important for us to continue the energy and enthusiasm that came from such a remarkable Women’s competition in Tokyo, with New Zealand and Fiji’s success,” Hatton told Oceania Rugby media.

“The performance of Fijiana and the success they had right through the Olympic tournament, was a game changer for the attitude and mindset within Fiji towards girls and women in Rugby.

“You could see it changing before your eyes, and it commenced when Fiji defeated the Olympic defending champions, Australia.

“People in Fiji woke up to what was possible!”

The scenes of jubilation for their national women’s team echoed across Fiji, but it is the impact for the next generation of players across the Pacific that Hatton believes can leave a lasting legacy.

“Fijiana captain, Rusila Nagasau, told me of walking down the street and getting mobbed by fans,” Hatton said.

“She’s been playing for 13 years and that has never happened before.

“The coaches in Fiji have been inundated with parents wanting their girls to play Rugby, and that’s never happened before.

“It’s been a great leap forward for the general community’s attitude that girls do have a right to play sport and importantly play the sport of their choice.

“Fiji is a hugely influential force in the Pacific and these outcomes will have a ripple effect right across the region.”

The Unions continue to grow women’s Rugby

Across Oceania, the Unions continue to be at the forefront of growing girl’s and women’s Rugby, combining with their own initiatives as well as linking with Oceania Rugby programs.

Oceania Rugby’s Get into Rugby PLUS program combines Rugby with life skills.

“We’ve had some great success with Get into Rugby PLUS, not only in changing attitudes and behaviours to girls and women in rugby, but also to the prevention of violence.

“Built around the values of Rugby – respect, integrity, solidarity, self-discipline and passion – girls and boys learn through fun, intentionally designed games and discussions facilitated by their coach.

“Teams are supported by their coaches to encourage critical thinking and reflection around issues of gender, respectful relationships, and healthy conflict resolution.

“We’ve had great success in the program in Fiji and we’re excited to have recently established Get into Rugby PLUS in Samoa.

“We’re just a couple of months in and it is proving to be incredibly well received.

“In additional to Get into Rugby PLUS, Lakapi Samoa has is also leading other fantastic initiatives promoting gender equality and ending violence against women.

“They are running an entire Equal Playing Field Festival this month, that includes women’s leadership, girl’s sevens festivals, as well as career days.

“In Nauru and Papua New Guinea, we have started programs this year supported through Team Up, the Australian Government’s Sport for Development program.

“Whilst they are only a few months in we are seeing some really wonderful results.”

More details on the remaining webinars for Women in Rugby…Respect month can be found here.

“Oceania’s three remaining webinars are open to everyone across the region, and will focus on coaching, strength and conditioning and governance,” Hatton said to Oceania Rugby media.

“We’ve got some extraordinary leaders and it will be a rare opportunity to have some close interaction with them.

“In addition, there are so many fantastic activities that all of our Unions will be working on throughout this month and beyond.”

The Women in Rugby Month regional Calendar can be found here.