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...

Monday, December 31, 2012

Looking back

As 2012 comes to an end a few thoughts come to mind.

On the "home front" I came across the team picture from Rochford and its a shock to realise that the triumph of the Letchworth Girls at Rochford Tens is a full six years ago now. All of the "girls" from that day have, needless to say, grown up - two have children of their own. Others are working or coming to the end of their higher education studies. Several still play - most notably Jess Robinson, who played in the Dubai Sevens again a few weeks ago. They were a great bunch and I miss those days, though maybe not when the weather is like this!

Beyond that it is often a shock to see the outcome of stuff that I have written, even (maybe especially) stuff that starts on here. It was, after all, on this blog that the world first heard of Emily Valentine - the first woman in the world to play rugby (that we know of). Her story has spread and spread - its been rewritten and published in Italy and Germany and Sri Lanka and Fiji... and now, in New Zealand, she is a brand! EmVale is a new women's health and sports range, whose name comes from Emily.

Its things like this that make a total amateur blogger and occasional "reporter" (well, that is what the press pass said) feel... well, slight scared to be honest! And rather pleased as well.

There were other personal highlights in 2012 - especially the London Sevens, and meeting and trying to talk to the great Kelly van Harskamp in front of 70,000 very noisy spectators at Twickenham counts as a lifetime moment. And to also get to meet other players as well was amazing. And its really hard to keep the "fan" at bay when you are pretending to be a journalist and ask journalist style questions! But the great news is that it looks like I will get another chance to meet them all, in Amsterdam in May! At last I might get the chance to see Spain play, live - that is worth looking forward to!

Its not all been sweetness and light, though. Returning to matters domestic it must be clear to anyone with eyes to see and half a brain that girls rugby in England is no-where near as strong as it was when Letchworth were playing only 4-5 years ago. The great gamble to putting all of the development eggs in the school sport basket just is not paying off - the statistics of players in schools and school teams entering competitions is up dramatically, but there is no sign at all that even a fraction of these "new" players are staying in the game beyond 13-15 (ie. when the school game stops). The club game in key areas - like the north - is in a pitiful state. Yorkshire cannot raise a county team in both age groups. Something has gone disastrously wrong - and its very upsetting to watch. Hertfordshire continue to do well, compared with the country as a whole, but even in the best organised county attendance at county trials is, from what I hear, down by 60-70%  from the heady days of 2005-06.

It will take about 10 years, probably, before this hits the national team. In the meanwhile (and to end on a positive note) England are truly the best in the world now, certainly at 15s and maybe next year at 7s too. That is really something.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Never complain about the state of the pitch again...

The picture below comes from a women's international between Burundi and Rwanda, played on 15th December, details of which have only just come to light. There is a positive story here about the spread of the game, etc. but I think the main thing to look at is the pitch.

This is, I remind you again, an international. Rwanda will have travelled for quite a long time to get here and presumably this is the best that would be available to the home team. Drowning does seem a real threat in some areas...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Q: In which country is the national women's rugby team fronting their sponsor's poster campaign?

And, moreover, without the prefix "women's"?

Could it be New Zealand, home of the World Champions? No. Australia, then, home of the Sevens World Champions? No. England? Currently home of the best women's rugby team ever? Daft question.

No. It is a country where rugby is not even a major sport. I give you...
Holland (the slogan means "Clean. Strong. Power" apparently).

All sorts of thoughts come to mind here, like...

  • When did you last see (Olympics-related advertising excepted perhaps) any women's sports team promote any product in the UK?
  • Why the heck not? This is, after all, a pretty powerful - and eye-catching - image.
  • Yes, okay, phrases like "posing pout" have been used but even so its still probably one of the most positive images of women in advertising that I have seen for some time. Compare and contrast with how women are being portrayed by people like Asda at the moment...
  • As well as advertising the product (nuclear power, apparently!) this is a brilliant way of advertising the sport as well.
  • "Sponsor of the Netherlands Sevens team" you note - not the "Netherlands women's sevens team". No prefix. That is a level of subliminal recognition that is pretty remarkable.
  • This is a minority sport in Holland. But note the lack of explanation as to who they are. It is roughly the equivalent of a campaign in the UK being fronted by the British women's handball team, so who says you need to be big media stars to be valuable for advertisers?
  • Add in the knowledge that this sponsor only sponsors the women's team - and it was the players themselves who went out and won the deal. Any team that has a sponsor-less shirt should maybe see it as an opportunity.
  • Who is the promotional genius at the heart of the women's rugby set-up in Holland?

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