Army Rugby Women Come into their Own

The Australian Army Rugby Union Women’s Team may have gone down to a very experienced and settled combined RANRU / AFRU team last Saturday at Victoria Barracks Sydney but they were far from outplayed.  Congratulations to the combined RANRU / AFRU Women’s team for winning the CDRE Mick Dunne Cup. The AARU Women’s Team, despite their rugby inexperience, were determined to play an attractive and ball-in-hand style of rugby and won many fans in the process including the combined opposition.

Despite scoring only one try a piece the 13-5 score line did not really indicate the quality of the rugby played.  The ferocity at the tackle and breakdown certainly was not for the feint hearted.  The ball was moved wide and often by both teams. Prior to the two week concentration the AARU Women’s squad had 11 players that had never played rugby union before. Most of the women who are attracted to rugby union come with a touch football background whilst others had played some form of competitive netball, soccer, Australian rules and rugby league.  In the end the AARU Women’s team fatigued and were not able to maintain pressure at the scrum and lost our own lineout throws causing us to not put enough pressure on the opposition in their red zone of the field.

Best players for AARU Women were PTE Courtney Kerr (1 REGT), PTE Hayley Sullivan (1JMOVGP) and LT Alisha Hewett (1 CHB) with traditionally strong performances from CAPT Kate Porter (11 CSSB) and CAPT Caroline Vakalahi (1 JMOVGP). Courtney and Alicia are new to rugby and both have strong futures in the game based on Saturday’s performances.

The concentration was based primarily on developing basic and core skills and getting the new and returning players to gain a feel for the game including the tackles and collisions.  In some respects we slowed the development of some of our senior players in order to bring the bulk of the squad up to a level to be able to play rugby with the skills and vision we did.  A warm up fixture versus the Newcastle Hunter Women’s team provided us with the necessary platform to leverage off however a planned fixture against Rockdale did not eventuate and in the end we were a game short in our preparation and this cost us dearly in terms with educating players in the game context and providing that invaluable situational awareness that you do not get in training. 

Big thanks to AARU Women’s National Manager LTCOL Natasha Ludwig and to Asst Coach WO2 Mark Fisher for pulling the team together at reasonably late notice. To the behind the scenes staff namely Manager WO2 Brett Bates, Asst Manager LT Rheanna Vehlow  and Medic / Strapper WO2 Greg Ralph for their tireless efforts behind the scenes also a very big thank you. Special thanks to former AARU / ASRU player, captain & coach and foundation ACT Brumby MAJ (Ret) Murray Harley who coached the team with outstanding energy, leadership, compassion and communication skills.

The make up of the squad (23 players) was primarily soldiers with one SNCO, one officer cadet and a number of Officers (3 GSO & 2 SSO) and of course includes both full-time and reserve personnel.  Players are posted to Darwin, Townsville, Brisbane, Oakey, Sydney, Canberra, Wagga and Melbourne however sadly only Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne have established women’s competitions which restricts the amount of ‘rugby’ time that the women had prior to arrival.  The girls had a wonderful time in camp and were a credit to themselves, their units and the Army.

With Sevens Rugby included as an Olympic Sport from 2016 there is a strong guarantee that Australian Services Rugby Union (ASRU) will provide at least one but hopefully more women to Rio de Janeiro. ASRU won the ARU National Women’s Championships Division 2 in 2011 and CAPT’s Kate Porter and Caroline Vahalaki represented the Wallaroo’s at the 2011 IRB Women’s Rugby World Cup in the UK. These two fine young players are the most recent in a long and decorated list of servicewoman who have represented their country at Wallaroo level.

Women’s rugby in the ADF is gaining momentum and getter stronger every year however it requires more women to play and establish teams in the local Army or civilian competitions. Those who are interested in playing the ‘game they play in heaven’ are asked to make contact with their respective Regional Rugby Representatives (located at AARU web page) to get rugby, whether it be 7-a-side, 10-a-side or 15-a-side, on the table and competitions developed.  Alternatively you can contact AARU Women’s Asst Coach WO2 Mark Fisher 1CSSB in the first instance or AARU Women’s National Manager LTCOL Natasha Ludwig HQ JOC for assistance if having trouble navigating through the system and they will put you in contact with the most appropriate people.

For AARU Women’s rugby to confidently nominate servicewomen for the ARU High Performance Unit Women’s Program players need to be playing club and hopefully representative rugby. Failure to do this will have you seriously behind the women who are playing in strong local competitions and on recognised and monitored strength and conditioning programs. If you believe that you have the necessary skills, attitude, knowledge and commitment to represent your country at the Olympics in the future then the proverbial ball is in your court!

Sevens teams will soon be entered into as many ARU sanctioned tournaments as possible primarily using local players in an attempt to actively promote and develop AARU Women’s rugby. AARU Women’s will then select a representative team to play in the higher standard tournaments at other times throughout the year.

Congratulations to the AARU Men’s team on being crowned the ASRC Champions and for winning back the WGCDR Caldwell Trophy and to the Army Rugby Union Old Boys Leopards for winning the inaugural Etuate ‘Blocker’ Seruitukana / Chris ‘Chops’ McLean Plate over Navy Old Salts. Thanks to ASRU for putting on a very successful ASRC and to ASRRA for providing the officials.

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