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...

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

More tales from the real world

Apart from much of my writing appearing elsewhere, I felt reluctant to write on here what I have been hearing because its always so negative. But in the end there is a paucity of real good news about girls' club rugby, hence last week's review. Now some more information had found my way.

Remember Yorkshire? A few years ago girls' rugby in Yorkshire was so big they were not just a county, they were a region - on their own. Their clubs were feared across the country (for all sorts of reasons).

And now, after four years of centrally imposed leagues, in the third year of the glorious U13 programme, and with player statistics higher than ever before? Yorkshire cannot raise a U15 team.

You start with frustration, then anger, then despair, then... It is the worst sort of nonsense where those in charge of the sport seem interested in just the numbers, because numbers on paper mean grants that... well, I suppose they go somewhere.

But all the evidence - I mean ALL the evidence - is that player numbers - REAL player numbers - are falling through the floor. Yeah, girls are being introduced to the sport in record numbers in schools, and more schools are playing in more tournaments than ever before BUT practically none of these girls are making their way to clubs.

U15 rugby should be booming this year. Three years after the start of the U13 programme, its graduates should be flooding into clubs. But traditionally the single biggest girls rugby county cannot raise a team. All of Yorkshire cannot find thirteen U15s interested in playing rugby. WTF????

The wonderful nationally imposed leagues shrink year on year, and now I hear that (unofficially) rules that restrict guests players in league matches are being quietly shelved just to get matches going.

I hate to say that some of us told you so, because that hardly helps.

(If someone has some good new stories about expanding rugby at U15 and U18, please let me know. It would make a huge difference...).

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Girls' rugby still in decline?

Yesterday was a big day for women's sport - an important Parliamentary committee was looking into how to keep the legacy of female success at the Olympics going and there were tales of interest and numbers up, but also information about how few girls - especially teenage girls - play any form of sport at all.

Which raises the question about what is happening with girls rugby. Remember that only five or six years ago Hertfordshire could expect 100 girls to turn up to county trials, and draconian restrictions had to be introduced into regional rugby just to keep the numbers trying to get into the teams down. New competitions like the Herts Sevens were attracting more entries that it knew what to do with, and the game was booming from the north-east to south-west. It was, officially, the fastest growing girls' sport.

And now?

Northumberland - a hotbed of girls rugby in the early 2000s, with much-feared clubs like Darlington and Tynedale - had barely enough players turn up for county trials to form a U18 team, and not enough at all at U15s (10 in fact).

In Hertfordshire numbers trialling were 36 for U18s - way less than five years ago - but actually up on last year thanks to a big cohort of players graduating from U15. More worryingly, however, fewer players seem to be coming in at the bottom - only around 20 turned up for U15s, perhaps half the number from last year.

Overall the country numbers playing at club level now seem to be lower than they have been for 10 years or more - though we cannot be certain of this as the official stats are wildly inflated by the numbers now playing in schools.

And schoolgirl rugby is indeed on a high - more schools entering tournaments than ever - but, as the county trials show, practically none of them are moving to clubs. And this is the third year of the U13 scheme should have seen - all those players introduced to the game by the U13 rules should now be moving into U15s... but  there is no sign of that happening.

One hint why from Northumberland - of their 25 U18 players, six play other sports, and all sports that got TV coverage in the summer. The rise of women's sport means that there is competition for sporting girls, and rugby (still largely invisible in the media) is losing out badly. Maybe things will improve after 2016 when sevens joins the Olympics, but that is four long years away.

Solution? My suggestion would be to look back to 2003 and recreate the world that made girls rugby thrive. No leagues, a game that moved seamlessly from mini rugby to the girls game, a game not overburdened with regulation, a game where a broader range of ages could play together (albeit unofficially!), and a game that worked through the clubs. And a game where England men were the new World Champions, of course. That helped too...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Best women's rugby video ever?

Sorry about the long period of silence, but most of my writings now are on Scrumqueens.

But this remarkable video - from Norway of all places - deserves wider notice. Its very artistic, and frankly brilliant. Entirely instrumental backing means that it has potential value for use in presentations and promotional events. Watch, enjoy.

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