I start this post following an interesting day which sparked a few discussions around female participation in and enjoyment of sports that well, just aren’t traditionally female.
Firstly, I spoke with a well-known ex international rugby player and coach, whose first words were “sorry girls that you had to sit through all that rugby chat”. Well let’s say, it was a rugby-focused event. I like rugby. I thought it would be interesting. I wasn’t just there on a jolly to spend 45 minutes away from my desk. But why the assumption that 3 girls couldn’t possibly be interested in, or play, a game that is traditionally male?
I wish one of us had come up with a witty remark, but we were pretty much shocked into silence. Until one of the girls came out with “well we all actually play….”, and that was that.
Secondly, again, same day, slightly different audience….but we got onto the discussion of women’s rugby (not that we were trying to make a point by bringing it up to avenge the earlier altercation but we were….) and a senior woman who I greatly respect professionally, herself a massive rugby fan, apologised for the fact that she did, generally, find women’s rugby boring to watch. I’m in two minds because at one point, I probably would have said the same. And I don’t know how I feel about saying that. However, I’m not so sure any more. At a national level, the skill is incredible. It’s pacey and accurate, and I know a lot of guys who (they wouldn’t admit it) would only dream of being able to do what they do! There is often less reliance on brute strength and more demonstration of the core skills that make a player excel, which makes for a fast-flowing, enticing game. Sure, further down the leagues, the quality is lower, but what do you expect when there is so much variation in the available enthusiastic pool of players? It’s like comparing the rugby playing populations of New Zealand and Romania, they just don’t balance….yet.
I’m hoping that with the obvious overall hype and enthusiasm that comes with a rugby World Cup year, (especially considering its location and despite the fact that yes, I know it is the men’s tournament) and the shift to professionalism in the women’s game, that we are going to see a continued rise in media coverage, grassroots participation and even a glimmer of acknowledgment from the rugby stalwarts. Even my dad admitted recently that ‘they are actually playing half decent rugby’
I’ve been brought up practically on the side of a rugby pitch, I know the game, I know the players and I know what I’m talking about. I might not play the full game but that doesn’t mean that I don’t know what’s going on or that I can’t hold my own in a heated debate about how the TMO-given try at the end of last season’s premiership try shouldn’t have been given and that the earlier one shouldn’t have been reversed by over-ruling the referees decision (I’m not bitter….much). I admit that yes, certain players are easy on the eye (more to come on that later) but this isn’t why I follow the game- so don’t assume that just because I’m female I couldn’t possibly DREAM of actually liking rugby. Especially not when you’re supposed to be a big name in the game. Or at least get some better PR training so you know when not to put your foot in it…
No, women’s rugby will probably never get to the same popularity, hype and entertainment as the men’s game because unfortunately, things just aren’t set up that way right now. But what’s not to say that we’re going to give it a flipping good go for what it’s worth?
Next time it comes on, don’t switch over. Don’t roll your eyes and assume it’s boring. Call your dad, brother, boyfriend, girlfriend, mum, sister, whoever, into the room and show them what the girls are getting up to. It might surprise you.
PS. Since writing the above yesterday I have told literally everyone I have spoken to about the assumption that as a girl I didn’t like rugby. Everyone agrees with me.