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The Ngatea Rugby and Sports Club has mustered the first womens’ rugby team in its history. Photo: ALICE PARMINTER

Rucking in as role models at Ngatea

The Ngatea Rugby and Sports Club is fielding a womens’ side for the first time in its history, and its members are geared up to show what they’re made of and inspire the girls of the Plains. 

The new team is made up of women of all ages, hailing from Kerepēhi, Turua, Paeroa and Ngatea. Twelve women have committed to play so far, with a further six potential players and more showing interest every week. 

Player Courtney Luke said she was thrilled at the turnout. 

“When I got asked to see if I could find anyone to play, I did not think that I would actually get anybody,” she said. 

“We’re like a little whānau now. We’re a cool bunch too, we all come from different walks of life. Every single one of us is totally different.” 

While many of the new recruits have never played rugby before, Courtney said the improvement was clear just a month into training. 

“I am honestly very, very proud of where they were to where they are now – from the very beginning, there’s a major difference,” she said. 

“Games aren’t until June, but the better prepared we are now, the better we will be come game time.” 

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Many of the women are mums, and they said they were embracing the opportunity to do something for themselves. At the same time, they said it was also a chance to bring the family together around a common interest, as well as role modelling healthy behaviours for their children. 

“It just shows that women can do anything they put their mind to,” Courtney said. 

“Women’s rugby is finally getting the recognition it deserves, and if we can help a high school girl maybe want to give it a go – I think that’s cool.” 

And for Courtney, the benefits stretch even further than being an inspiration to her six-year-old daughter. 

“We’re a competitive family. My kids said I can’t, and so I’m going to try and prove that I can. I want my daughter to see Mummy on the field,” she said. 

“And I’m diabetic at the moment… focus[ing] on my health and mental health [I’ve almost] reversed my diabetes. 

“And I’ve done that literally from training and stuff. That’s a big accomplishment for me – you ask me if I’d play a year ago and I’d say no way.” 

The club, meanwhile, is doing everything it can to support the women. Director of rugby Pieter Aucamp, an experienced development coach from South Africa, will be overseeing the team, and the club is also aiming to become a more family-friendly space to accommodate families. 

“We’re working on a few plans now to create a kids’ space in the clubroom so they can be in there while mum and dad are training,” Luke said. 

“The men tend to, on a Wednesday night, ditch the kids and leave them with Mum. So now, that creates a few more considerations for the women and how much they have to be prepared and organised to make [training] happen.” 

And, come game time, the ladies are determined to shine. Club president Luke O’Neil said the Thames Valley Rugby Union would be introducing its inaugural Thames Valley Women’s Rugby Club of Origin Competition this year, and he was hopeful the other clubs would muster enough teams for a good contest. 

“I think we’re going to be almost the underdogs of the competition, [but] we’re not just making ourselves proud, I think even the community. We have so much support, It’s really, really cool to see. From nothing to something,” Courtney said. 

“Any other women who want to be amongst it, come and join us.”

DETAILS: Training on Wednesday evenings at Hugh Hayward Domain. Contact Pieter Aucamp on 021 212 4795 to find out more.