Fiji Rugby Union and Oceania Rugby, the regional governing body for rugby union, are partnering with the Australian Government’s PacificAus Sports to positively impact gender equality through the Oceania Rise Rugby Project. Fiji is one of the nations that will receive targeted support through the project. The three-year collaboration responds directly to the surge in popularity of rugby for girls in Fiji, and seeks to address the most significant gaps in the women’s rugby pathway and women in management of the sport. The project also provides a much-needed injection into domestic girls’ rugby competition by supporting the Raluve Secondary Schools Competition. It will also fund two new full-time positions in senior management for women within Fiji Rugby, and training on governance and strategy with provincial rugby unions throughout Fiji. Rise Rugby follows the recent international success of Fiji women’s teams at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, 2022 Super W competition, and 2022 Commonwealth Games that has inspired girls of all ages to join the game, and seeks to improve the representation of women in paid and unpaid senior sport management roles. The Australian government has been tremendous backers of women in rugby in recent years lending support to national teams Fijiana 7s and Fijiana Drua to compete globally, and are now keen to assist FRU strengthen and sustain domestic pathways and improve gender diversity among decision makers. Australia’s Chargé d'Affaires in Fiji, John Williams, said:
“The Rise Rugby Project would boost the participation of women and girls in rugby at all levels by providing a clear pathway for players to reach their full potential. "It will also ensure women’s voices are heard in the management of rugby in Fiji”, he added. Fiji Secondary School Rugby Union President, Jone Kanalagi, said:
“FSSRU as organizers of the Weet-bix Raluve Competition is indeed grateful that the Australian Government has come on board to be a sponsor for the Fiji Secondary School Girls Rugby for the next three years. "It means a lot to the growth of the Raluve Competition and FSSRU will ensure that the sponsorship will be directed at areas of need to develop and finance the growth of the sport for girls in Secondary Schools.” The Weetbix Raluve Championship has opened access to rugby for secondary school age girls, and the response has been astounding! In the U16 and U18 girls, an incredible 72 schools are participating in the four different zones which are Eastern, Southern, Northern and Central. Girls are flooding in to play and financial backing is important to ensure so many new teams can be accommodated, and they are provided with the key things they need to stay safe and perform well. Oceania Rise Rugby is not only driving initiatives in Fiji, but across the entire region. Oceania Rugby Sport for Development and Partnerships Manager Erin Hatton explained:
“The Oceania Rise Rugby Project is a game-changer for women in rugby in the region. It is driving a series of strategies and initiatives over three years. Some activities serve all countries across our region, including Directors Training, women’s rugby-specific learning resources, and an Oceania Women in Rugby Network and mentoring program. And four countries are receiving more concerted support for senior domestic competition and women in sport management – Fiji, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Tonga. This sort of significant and focussed support is so valuable to always unions. Instead of inching forward in the women’s sport space, that can take great strides and make meaningful progress” she added.
Raluve Secondary Schools Rugby
This is the inaugural year for the Weet-bix Raluve Cup. The participating schools have been playing in their zones in the last few months, after which the top eight teams (two each from four zones) will qualify for national quarterfinal. The Quarterfinals will be played on the 17 Sept at Ratu Cakobau Park, Nausori, Semi finals 1 October at Prince Charles Park and Finals at Churchill Park in Lautoka on the 8th of October.
What’s in a name – ‘Rise Rugby’
Oceania Rugby embraced the name ‘Rise Rugby’ after consulting with women across the region. It was chosen for this women’s-focussed initiative, to represent not only the drive for great advances for women in the game, but that these advances will lift rugby for all – ‘A rising tide lifts all boats’.