Hunter Junior Rugby Union (HJRU) will open a new pathway for young female players with the introduction of an innovative competition in 2019.
HJRU President, Julien Castaldi, said a local 10-a-side competition for girls in the Under 13, Under 15 and Under 17 age groups will kick off in May next year.
“This is exciting news for HJRU and local clubs which have been seeking an opportunity for young girls interested in playing rugby union to show their talents on the field,” said Julien.
“Under existing competition rules, girls up to the age of 12 years can play mixed gender rugby but there has been little pathway to continue their development and great enthusiasm for the code in later years.”
The 10-a-side player format will start on 18 May next year and continue for 11 rounds before Grand Finals in each age group.
“Local clubs have been pressing for such a competition because of the increasing interest of young girls in playing rugby,” said Julien.
“We know that girls and women’s sport is changing rapidly – just look at the successes of the Australian Women 7s in winning gold at the Rio Olympics and the Super W Women’s competition this year in which a number of Hunter players were involved.
“That success at the top level is filtering down through the younger age groups and our new competition – believed to be the only one of its type in a NSW Country rugby zone – is anticipated to attract a lot of interest from girls in the 13 to 17 age bracket.”
Julien said the initiative was being built on the success of a Spring Rugby 7s competition for girls that HJRU has run for the past year.
“We started the Girls Summer 7s in February this year to provide an opportunity for girls aged Under 15 and Under 17 to play the faster version of the game,” explained Julien.
“The current Girls Spring 7s competition has 10 teams in the Under 15 division while the Under 17s comprises six teams which reflects the interest from those age groups in playing rugby.
“HJRU is now focussed on transferring that interest to a longer format of the game and our release today of information about the new 10-a-side competition will allow clubs to start planning for 2019.
“The 10-a-side format (instead of 15 players per team) is designed to allow clubs to concentrate on building their player strength between now and May next year. It will also allow clubs to engage with a smaller team group while introducing those girls to the code.”