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Aussie Women’s Rugby is Pulling the Australian Rugby Community out of the Doldrums

Last year, the national Wallabies team struggled through a test season of 4-9, the team’s worst performance in 60 years. Furthermore, no Australian Super Rugby squad was able to make any kind of impact in its respective leagues. This is not what Aussie rugby fans expect from what used to be a World rugby powerhouse.

With the men’s rugby teams struggling and fans reluctant to spend their hard-earned sports entertainment dollar on an inferior product, something had to happen to save Aussie rugby. That something was the Aussie women’s sevens team winning the first ever Olympic gold medal being offered in the sport at Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Indeed, a fond memory for Aussie punters who might have laid claim to a bonus option like, which they promptly used to make a wager and stuff their bankrolls.

Just a little over two years later and clearly this was a turning point for the Australian rugby industry. With Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle taking over the nation’s rugby community, everything is moving back to an upwards trajectory. Remember, this is a woman who led the Netball community in New Zealand for seven years, then became the first female executive of a National Rugby League club, the Canterbury Bulldogs.

In a recent speech, she was discussing the state of Aussie rugby. She said, “We need to make sure that our female communities are given the opportunity to be put forward and promoted, and to be talked about positively. Sport has really put Australia on the world map in so many ways. We really do punch above our weight and it continues to be a really important part of Australian society.”

The popularity of women’s rugby among female adolescents and teenagers is growing at an unprecedented rate. In 2018, more than 60,000 girls and women played some form of organized rugby from non-contact seven-a-side teams to the traditional 15-a-side format. That’s more than double the number of female participants the nation saw just three short years ago. The biggest change the women’s rugby community has seen is in the school system where more athletic departments are realigning its budget to provide access to rugby for its female students.

Castle told the press that women now make up 13% of the nation’s rugby-playing population. Much of the credit goes to Rugby Australia’s Get into Rugby program, which included 56,000 participants of which almost 40% were females.

In 2018, Rugby Australia launched the Super W league. The start of the league came on the heels of the Olympic victory as a way to draw further attention to the rugby community as a whole. Cobie-Jane Morgan was a member of the victorious New South Wales team in that inaugural competition.

When speaking with the Associated Press about the importance of that victory in Rio, Morgan said, “The girls winning in Rio was huge for rugby. Ten years ago, touch footballers made up our women’s open side. From that growth a lot of young girls went on to learn spatial awareness, and from there to Sevens.”