Formed 2004 ... Herts 7s U14 Runners-up 2005 ... North Herts U14 team, Herts Youth Games 2005 runners-up (coached by Letchworth)... Herts Superteams U14 Runners-up 2005 ... Herts SuperTeams "Fairplay" winners 2006 ... Rochford 10s U17 Champions 2006 ... East Midlands 10s U17 Runners-up 2007 ... East Midlands 10s U17 "Fairplay" winners 2007 ... National 10s U17 5th place and "Fairplay" winners 2007 ... Herts 7s U17 Plate runners-up 2007 ... National 7s U17 Plate winners 2007 ... RFU "President's XV" Award winners 2007 ... Herts Superteams winners 2007 ... Midlands 10s U18 Runners-up 2008 ... National 10s U18 4th place 2008 ... North Herts U11 team, Herts Youth Games 2008 runners-up (coached by Letchworth girls) ... London and SE 7s U18 Plate runners-up 2008 ... Herts 7s U18s runners-up 2008 ... National 7s U18s quarter-finalists 2008 ... Gloucester City 10s U18 Bowl runner-up (6th) 2009 ... Worthing 10s U18 Plate runner-up 2009 ... National 7s U18 Plate winners 2009... Worthing 10s U15 Plate winners 2010... Worthing 10s U18 Shield winners 2010... Herts 7s U15 and U18 Bowl runners-up 2010... National 7s U18 Plate runners-up 2010...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hunting the archives

"Certain gentlemen... were allowed tickets [for internationals at Twickenham] for wives and daughters, etc. ... to view the proceedings, 90 per cent of which 90 per cent of them did not understand or possibly appreciate"
This is how some rugby followers (especially a Mr Towell) looked on women just over 50 years ago (1953 in fact), and an example of some fascinating information about the history of women's rugby that can be found through a service provided by Herts Libraries. If you have a library card you can use several references sources online - free - that are normally unavailable (well, without a significant cost). This includes the text of every copy of the Times ever published - and bunging in the words "women's rugby" does come up with some interesting results.

One thing this shows is how incredibly young the game really is. Apart from one, random, and largely unexplained photo from 1922 (right) - all it says is that this was "a photograph taken at Sydney, Australia, which shows an incident in a rugby match played on the Show Grounds between two teams of women" - women's rugby union* is not mentioned again until as recently as 1982, apart from a jokey comment about "women's liberation" in the Times Diary in 1970 when a women's charity game at Maesteg was organised.

The 1982 mention is an example of several items that give intriguing but incomplete information. On February 12th the paper mentioned that in nine days time (on Sunday 21st February) "in France, the University College Ladies rugby team from London is to play what is believed to be the first women's international fixture at the game. They will be playing the ladies of Pontoise". While not an "international", in the sense of being a game between two representative XVs, this quite probably would have been the first time any UK women's team had played anywhere overseas. Did the game take place? What was the result? Who knows - there is no follow-up in any later edition. The following August the inclusion of women's rugby in the first "Gay Games" in San Francisco is briefly mentioned.

Serious coverage does not begin until Christmas Eve the following year when the Women's Rugby Football Union was formed. Tricia Moore from the WRFU was concerned that the Welsh RFU might object to the clash of acronyms (they didn't) and went on to say that "our games tend to be more tactical than men's games, with a good deal less gratuitous violence. But it is still a very aggressive game; we play to exactly the same rules as the men. It is played in a good spirit though, about as ladylike as it could be in the circumstances. We have been told that we are about the same standard as a good 14-year-old schoolboy team".

In March 1985 a 14-team club tournament, won by Welsh team Magor, received some coverage. The presence of a team from North Carolina was mentioned but who the other 12 teams were, or where the tournament took place, again is not considered important. However WRFU now had 29 members and Tricia was complains that expansion of the game was being frustrated. Despite the fact that most players "would like their club to put out a women's team ... committee men tend to be unsure". However, Magor's success did result in their being featured in a half-hour documentary on BBC2 a month later.

Then in April Tricia - clearly thriving in her role as WRFU press officer - achieved a major breakthrough with a big full-page article. The first Great Britain international was still a year away and the number of clubs capable of fielding a full team in the UK was only 24, but its worth a read, both to see how far the game has come in the past 25 years... but also maybe how little some attitudes have changed. This was followed with another article with as many questions as answers:
"The American Barbarians, the women's rugby team, completed a clean sweep of wins on their first tour abroad last night, beating the South of England 20-0 at Sudbury. Candi Orsini at centre had a hand in three of America's first-half tries, scored by Ruth Bernack, Kerri Heffernan, Micky McVann and Karen Keith."
Who were the American Barbarians? Who else did they play? Again we'll probably never know...

After this coverage switches to a separate database called Infotrac that includes lots of newspapers - not just the Times. Take a look at this and you can trace the entire international history of England (well, those bits that the media could be bothered to cover). Did you know, for example, that as late as 1986 (according to Tricia) no woman had ever scored a drop goal? Makes you wonder who it was who first managed the trick...

After a while it can get a bit depressing, though. Roughly once a year an almost identical feature article appears in one paper or another along the lines of "Shock! Women/girls really can play rugby!". Comments in the press after the recent England/New Zealand game are almost identical to those that appeared after the first Great Britain international against France in 1986.

But if you are unhappy with what appears (or does not appear) in the press it always pays to write in and complain. Mary Wane did back in 1953. She was not happy with Mr Towell's comments:
"I feel wary of encroaching on what he obviously regards as a strictly male preserve ... but I rarely miss my Saturday afternoon's rugby ... and I certainly understand nearer 90 per cent than 10 per cent of the game"
Good on you, Mary. I wonder what became of her...

*A women's rugby league game gets at Batley in 1981 also gets a brief mention

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Total Pageviews (since June 2009)

Sport Blogs - Blog Catalog Blog Directory