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...

Friday, April 30, 2010

Senior rugby - at 11 years old?

This might be an unremarkable article here from a local paper about a local sportswoman - except for a couple of things.

Its about Task Kara (right) who will soon be playing her fiftieth senior game for her club. But she is only 15! Even more astonishing is the fact that she played her debut at the age of 11!

And this is not tale from some small country with only a few rugby players. This story comes from Waimea women's 1st XV in Christchurch, New Zealand. Who are they? Well put it this way, when Tash went on for her first game four years ago she did so as  replacement for Stephanie Mortimer - at the time the wing for New Zealand's women - while her captain on the day was current the Black Fern's skipper Melissa Ruscoe.

Task is obviously a pretty good player (she scored 10 tries in that first season, which isn't bad for any team) - but that is not the matter of note here. What is truly amazing is that if Task had been in England should would not have been able to play even U15 girls rugby. Indeed she would not be allowed to so much as train with an adult team, never mind play in a side containing two World Champions.

So who is right here? Presumably there are no strict age rules in New Zealand (though there must be age band teams?) - it seems that if you are good enough to play, you play - and it is a policy that certainly doesn't do them any harm at international level (or indeed below that).

Would that work here? Its an important question. The strict application of age bands in England has undoubtedly lost the game players. We have seen it at Letchworth. Over the last few years we have lost maybe five or six girls from the U15s because we could not get regular games for them (despite endless attempts to form links with other clubs). That must be multiplied many times over across the country. Indeed it is questionable whether we as a club would have got going at all if we (and other clubs) had not been able to bend the bands a bit in some games in that first season, thus getting everyone games.

However its obviously a safety concern. Would there be pressure to put girls into situations that they were not capable of dealing with? Would injuries increase? Would insurance become impossible to arrange? On the other hand age is not a guarantee of safety - we have all seen massive 14 year olds perfectly capable of holding their own at a higher level who tower (arguably dangerously) over little 12 year olds. And wasn't it mad that Nikki got to play one more season of junior rugby - despite being only days older than Carla, who had to stop playing last year?

Its a difficult balancing act. Any policy that results in players being lost from the game needs to be justified - and clearly they have found a way around all this in New Zealand. Perhaps the Age Band Review should be looking further afield when it takes its evidence?


  1. Anonymous12:21 PM

    In New Zealand teams are formed around the players weight not their age. Therefore injuries are at a minimum as all the players are around the same size/weight, has worked splendidly for U18 teams for decades.

  2. Anonymous8:40 PM

    Interesting that but how do they split the backs and the forwards? Wouldn't it be hard to do that if all the players are about the same weight? Or is the weight range flexible? Could you give more details on the weight structures please? I've toyed with doing that in my own country but don't know where to start due to the aforementioned 'problem'.

  3. Anonymous10:07 AM

    Frankly we'd just get shot by the PC police. What this proves is that with common sense, sensible coaching and talent excellence can be achieved. Sadly people wish to box this up with rules and regulations which add no value to the players or coaches experience in this country.


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