Could it be the news that the AFL has announced the teams who were successful in their bid to have a team in the inaugural women’s competition in 2017? Could it be that the Wallaroos, for the first time have a naming rights sponsor in Buildcorp and will play the Black Ferns in a two-test series for the first time? Could it be that James Maloney, Matt Moylan and Josh Mansour all celebrated a birthday in the same week?
These stories came close, but were ultimately pipped by a story shared with me by friend, Mat Clarke about the Rebecca Young Cup, held at Lakeside Sporting Complex this week.
So what is the Rebecca Young Cup?
The Rebecca Young Cup is a 7-a-side, full contact rugby league gala day for girls in Year 5 and 6. Games are played on a mid-sized field, under the two pass rule system.
The tournament is in its 5th year. In year one, there were three schools involved. Since then the tournament has ballooned and this year there were 12 schools involved. These schools were split into two pools (Newcastle based schools and Hunter based schools) and played round robin – the winners of the two pools played off for the trophy.
The tournament is named after Novocastrian and former Jillaroo Rebecca Young. The Young’s are a well-known rugby league family in the Hunter, with Rebecca representing Australia, and her older brother Michael playing NRL for the Newcastle Knights.
Newcastle and the Hunter are both regions that absolutely love their rugby league. It comes as no surprise to us that these regions are leading the charge when it comes to young women and girls playing rugby league.
So which team did Ladies who League support on the day?
We don’t like to play favourites, but Mat coached the girls team from Cessnock Public School. I have absolutely fallen in love with these girls who were the first ever female rugby league team in the 157 year history of the school!
Mat coached the team and became involved after two girls approached him earlier in the year asking for opportunities for girls to play rugby league. One of these girls is a registered weekend player, and the other plays with the boys on the school team. I told the girls about the Rebecca Young Cup and they were instantly keen. I told them that if they could find me a minimum of five more girls that were interested, I’d sign us up and I’d coach them. They gave me a team sheet the next day!
Only two girls on the team had played a game of competitive rugby league before today.
The mighty girls from Cessnock Public School finished the day with a record of three wins, one draw and one loss from their five games, to finish second in the Hunter Pool.
The final was won by St Brigid’s Primary School, Raymond Terrace, who beat Metford Public School 20-8 in a highly entertaining match. Both schools will progress to contest the “Legends Shield” in Sydney in August, playing against the winners of other divisional tournaments.
Tell us some stories!
Big thanks to Mat for sharing some of the stories from the day with me. I have beamed from ear to ear while writing this article.
“I had a girl in my team that admitted to me before the first game that she was scared of getting hurt. I told her that it was OK to be nervous, but to not be scared, trust the technique that she had learned from the NRL guys, and that she would be fine. After our last game, she came up to ask me when the next footy day was. When I told her about a touch gala next term, she said “I don’t want to play touch anymore… I like tackling now!””
“Another one of my ‘first timers’ became very quiet and focussed before the first game. I asked if she was OK, she said she was fine, so I let her be – I thought it might have been pre-game nerves. The first time the opposition got the ball, she shot out of the line and made a cracking ball and all tackle. She then promptly jumped up, looked over to me and yelled “I did it!” and literally jumped for joy. The play had moved on and I only had time to yell out “good girl… now do it again!”. Once that initial metal barrier was cleared, she tackled everything that moved and slotted into her new-found home at dummy half with class and guts – I had a couple of opposing coaches ask what ‘weekend team’ she played for. No-one could believe that she was a horse rider playing in a pair of borrowed boots.”
“After our last game, I went looking for my girls as they were needed at a presentation before leaving. I assumed they had headed to the canteen or the change rooms… instead, I found seven 11/12 year old girls sitting in a huddle on the hill, watching the final together, discussing footy boots and comparing bruises! Couldn’t think of a better end to the day!”
Congratulations to Luke Lawrence and the team at the NRL Development Hunter for organising a tremendous day and a big thanks to Mat for sharing the story with us.
I am always so encouraged to hear stories like this. When people tell you that NRL is a male dominated sport, instead of telling them about the involvement of women like Yvonne Sampson, Raelene Castle or Kasey Badger, this might be a story worth sharing.
Next generation of Australian Jillaroos? You betcha!
Ladies who League xxx