Women’s sport weekly wrap: Does Australia want success in the XV format of the game?

Mary Konstantopoulos Columnist

By Mary Konstantopoulos, Mary Konstantopoulos is a Roar Expert

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    This week there have been plenty of questions asked about Australian rugby.

    Who will succeed Bill Pulver as chief executive of the Australian Rugby Union after announcing that he would step down from his role after axing the Western Force from the Super Rugby competition? What will happen to the Western Force? Does Super Rugby have a sustainable future in Australia?

    As a person who identifies mainly with rugby league and cricket, the answers to these questions don’t concern me too much.

    The question I would like to hear the answer to is what the ARU plan to do to make sure plenty of lessons are learned from the Australian Wallaroos current campaign in the Women’s Rugby World Cup in Ireland.

    Heading over, I knew this would be a difficult tournament for the Wallaroos.

    Despite the team having the opportunity to travel to New Zealand and compete in a Tri-Nations tournament earlier this year and then go into team camp before departing, making the squad the best prepared that they have ever been heading into a World Cup, I didn’t think it would be enough – particularly against teams like France and New Zealand.

    Last Friday morning, the Wallaroos suffered their first loss of the tournament. They were defeated by Ireland by the narrow margin of just two points.

    But, there were plenty of positives for the team following the 19-17 defeat.

    Shannon Parry showed why she is the most well-recognised woman in Australian rugby. A Wallaroo and an Olympic gold medallist, her experience showed throughout this game.

    She reminded me of what Nathan Hindmarsh was to the Parramatta Eels many years ago. If there was a tackle to be made, Shannon was there. If there was a hit-up to be taken, Shannon was there. When a difficult carry needed to be made, Shannon was there. When the team needed motivation, Shannon was there to lead by example.

    It really was an inspirational performance by the captain.

    The back row of Parry, Grace Hamilton and Mollie Gray were also in fine form โ€“ particularly considering how new that combination was. Parry had only just returned to the Wallaroos and Gray had been out injured for most of the year, having done her MCL and ACL in Brisbane at the start of the year.

    There is plenty of opportunity for this back row to improve and be real leaders in the squad.

    There was also some risk bringing in a new halves combination, but both Katrina Barker and Trilleen Pomare were outstanding. Trilleen made her Test debut in this game.

    Line-outs and goal kicking were two areas I identified as needing some improvement, but the Wallaroos performance gave me plenty of hope heading into the game against France โ€“ particularly given that had two easier conversions been made, the Wallaroos would have won this game.

    But then, my hopes were dashed as the Wallaroos went down 48-0 to France.

    It certainly wasn’t the Wallaroos best performance, but the reality is they were outclassed by a better team and it showed that, if the Wallaroos want to compete at this level, some things really have to change.

    Don’t get me wrong โ€“ this article is not having a crack at the women in the team. I support every single woman in that team and want to see them continue to go from strength to strength.

    Every time I have watched this team play they have played with courage, commitment and resilience. The women in this team love their rugby and plenty of them juggle work, families, university and work while juggling rugby on the side.

    Each time they play together they improve and I always get glimpses of what this team could be if they were properly invested in.

    A couple of weeks ago, Josephine Sukkar said the Wallaroos could win a World Cup in four years’ time if they were invested in, just like the sevens program has been.

    The key word there is investment.

    Australians team lift HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series trophy

    Can Australia’s success in Women’s Rugby Sevens be matched in the XV’s? (ARU Media)

    It is unfair for us, as the Australian public, to expect the Wallaroos to compete against the top rugby nations in the world, given the women in the squad are not professionals and, until this year, have been given very little opportunity to play together on a consistent basis.

    This space is an interesting one at the moment with the English Rugby Football Union having recently decided not to continue their XV’s women’s player’s contracts and the situation in New Zealand where the sevens players are contracted, but not the XV players.

    So the way I’m looking at it, a decision really needs to be made by the Australian rugby union.

    In the women’s space, does Australia only want to be successful in the sevens format? Or is the XV space another space we want to be successful in?

    Given the joy last year’s gold medal win gave the nation and the boost that gave women’s participation in rugby, I would think there is enough money in the coffers to be competitive in both and that it would be worthwhile.

    So let’s start working toward four years’ time and seeing a big investment and improvement for the Wallaroos.

    But before we get there, the Wallaroos have one more game in this World Cup campaign against Japan this morning.

    The Wallaroos finished seventh the last time they competed at a World Cup. The goal should be to finish slightly higher. A win against Japan is the first step toward making that a reality.

    I had to make mention of Sally Pearson who last week became a World Champion again, clocking 12.59 to win gold at the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London.

    Sally is one of my favourite comeback stories in sport.

    This is a woman who has already won one other world title, two Commonwealth Games gold medals and has been crowned an Olympic champion.

    But her success has not come without its setbacks.

    Sally’s inclusion in this competition marked her return from several serious injuries that forced her to withdraw from the world titles in 2015 and the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

    Is it too early to start dreaming about Tokyo?

    Mary Konstantopoulos
    Mary Konstantopoulos

    Mary Konstantopoulos is a lawyer, sports advocate and proud owner and founder of the Ladies Who empire, including Ladies who League, Ladies who Legspin, Ladies who Lineout and Ladies who Leap. You can find her podcast on iTunes and find her on Twitter @mary__kaye and @ladieswholeague.

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    The Crowd Says (45)

    • August 18th 2017 @ 7:25am
      Onside said | August 18th 2017 @ 7:25am | ! Report

      The money would be there if The World Cup was held in Australia.
      After that, the media enhanced feelgood support would diminish.

      The Rugby 7’s Gold medal team only have exposure in Sydney 7’s
      Outside of that , the Australian sporting public have little interest .

      Olympic Gold medal winning womens waterpolo and feild hockey
      teams won against seriously entrenched competiton against the
      best in the world . These superb wins are hardly ‘top of mind’ for
      most Australian sports fans. It’s a hard gig.

      An issue impacting on the relaitonship between success in womens
      sports, and vital public awareness , is Australias small population
      thats spread over a massive area.

      For any sport to succeed it must have critical mass, which is why the
      BBC sports site has terrific coverage of womens sports. Population !

      Bring the World Cup to Australia and the money will arrive along with
      politicians in photo ops. And after that………

      • Columnist

        August 18th 2017 @ 2:17pm
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | August 18th 2017 @ 2:17pm | ! Report

        So then onside, do I need to start campaigning for us to have Women’s Rugby World Cup in Australia? You raise a very good point – the profile of women’s football has received a massive boost after the announcement that Australia was looking to put in a bid for 2023.

    • August 18th 2017 @ 7:43am
      Daveski said | August 18th 2017 @ 7:43am | ! Report

      A bounce back win against Japan but ultimately 5 tries to 3 was probably a poor result considering their size advantage and the amount of possession and territory the team enjoyed.

      I have really enjoyed this WRWC – the style of rugby is generally good, there is little time wasting, scrum resets and dawdling between set pieces. Some of the skills by teams and individuals have been excellent.

      I hope there is a market for Women’s XV but at present the WRWC can’t compete commercially with things like the World 7s series, Comm Games, Oly Games, the likely very successful 7s World Cup in San Fran next year etc.

      From a world developmental point of view XVs is hard work in Asian, African and Sth American nations. Resources, coaching, player body types…. 7s offers a more level playing field.

    • August 18th 2017 @ 9:43am
      moaman said | August 18th 2017 @ 9:43am | ! Report

      Hi Mary,
      I sat up later last night to watch NZ v Canada in the first of the really key matches to decide the semi-final lineups.
      Like Australia–the NZ womens’ team suffers hugely from a lack of funding and obviously this reflects on their results.

      Until recently NZ were able to paper over the cracks and dominated the RWCs until the English RFU decided to pour money into their team and made their xv fully professional.Although they have since retracted on this arrangement the results certainly showed and the England Women have built a formidable squad.

      In last night’s game the excellent kiwi skipper Fiao’o Fa’amausili brought up her fiftieth cap; what was really noticeable to me was that it has taken since 1991 for her to achieve that! Our teams need more fixtures if they are to be able to stay competitive with their northern rivals.

      I urge all true rugby fans to take a look at these games–they are very good quality and there are some exciting players on the word stage.More attention will hopefully mean the powers-that-be sit up and take notice.We can only hope!

      Aussies can start by watching their women play in the upcoming semi…..

      • Roar Pro

        August 18th 2017 @ 12:00pm
        Boosho said | August 18th 2017 @ 12:00pm | ! Report

        ’91? She got her first cap at the age of 11?

        • August 18th 2017 @ 3:18pm
          moaman said | August 18th 2017 @ 3:18pm | ! Report

          Boosho; Er…good point mate! My mistake.Egg on my face.
          Fa’amausili debuted in 2002 so a quick refresher course in maths later and I am able to ascertain it has taken her 15 years to accrue her 50th cap.
          If you think that this is her third RWC then I think that just highlights the dearth of opportunity these very talented women get to play together on the International stage.

          In contrast—the men have over-kill in terms of their calendar.

      • Columnist

        August 18th 2017 @ 2:19pm
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | August 18th 2017 @ 2:19pm | ! Report

        I completely agree with more opportunity to play.

        When the Wallaroos played a Test in NZ toward the back end of last year, it was the first time in over 2 years that they had the opportunity to play a Test. This needs to change if we want to be able to compete with other countries on the world stage.

    • August 18th 2017 @ 9:50am
      Slat said | August 18th 2017 @ 9:50am | ! Report

      I have always thought that women should not be playing 15 aside rugby. They do not do the game justice, however they are perfectly suited to 7 aside, they are slick, fast, allusive and can handle the mental structure better. I would go along and watch womens7’s but not 15’s. There are some things that men are better at and we should recognise that.

      • Roar Rookie

        August 18th 2017 @ 10:08am
        Paul D said | August 18th 2017 @ 10:08am | ! Report

        Pretty poor statement. You cannot compare mens XV’s with all it’s established pathways and professional support structures with women’s XV’s. The same statements were made about Football and Cricket etc when the women’s teams first started gaining support and momentum. The “old guard” saw it as a sideshow. Now look at it.

        After just a few years of professional development focus the womens 7’s is a revelation. If the same emphasis was put on the XV’s over time it will also build into a competitive spectacle of its own.

        • August 18th 2017 @ 10:35am
          Jibba Jabba said | August 18th 2017 @ 10:35am | ! Report

          Agreed Paul D – he should watch the kiwi canada game.. some great skills and pace with big mobile mommas in there that would terrifying even some mens teams. Maybe not beat them but would terrify them ๐Ÿ™‚ They deserve their game and its good to watch the top level competitions

      • Roar Rookie

        August 18th 2017 @ 1:20pm
        Shane D said | August 18th 2017 @ 1:20pm | ! Report

        Don’t know what games you have been watching there Slat but Women’s XV’s is great to watch in my opinion.
        The skill level of the players is high in the better teams. Their use of space & deception is fantastic to watch as there is not the reliance on power that you see in the men’s game.

      • Roar Guru

        August 18th 2017 @ 2:18pm
        Machooka said | August 18th 2017 @ 2:18pm | ! Report

        Everyone is entitled to opinion Slat but this opinion of yours just grates… did you watch any games?

        I think probably not eh!

        • August 18th 2017 @ 4:31pm
          Slat said | August 18th 2017 @ 4:31pm | ! Report

          Would you sit up and watch a men’s netball game, I think not!

          • Roar Guru

            August 18th 2017 @ 4:41pm
            Machooka said | August 18th 2017 @ 4:41pm | ! Report

            I’ve played many a game of netball; man on man and mixed… does that count?

            • August 18th 2017 @ 4:53pm
              Sam said | August 18th 2017 @ 4:53pm | ! Report

              I’ve played a couple of mixed games myself!

          • Roar Rookie

            August 18th 2017 @ 7:17pm
            Shane D said | August 18th 2017 @ 7:17pm | ! Report

            probably not Slat but then I wouldn’t make an uninformed comment about mens Netball either.

            • August 19th 2017 @ 10:57am
              Slat said | August 19th 2017 @ 10:57am | ! Report

              My opinion is not uninformed it is my opinion made public as your comment is your opinion?

      • August 18th 2017 @ 3:19pm
        moaman said | August 18th 2017 @ 3:19pm | ! Report

        Slat; I think you can’t have watched any of the top sides to have come up with that opinion.Totally wrong in my view.

        • August 18th 2017 @ 4:26pm
          Slat said | August 18th 2017 @ 4:26pm | ! Report

          Yes I did live on Fox, yawn! Sorry to say women are not built for the 15 game, my opinion! I would rather a flower than a thorny devil?

          • Roar Guru

            August 18th 2017 @ 4:39pm
            Machooka said | August 18th 2017 @ 4:39pm | ! Report

            Why not both?

          • Roar Guru

            August 18th 2017 @ 5:18pm
            Machooka said | August 18th 2017 @ 5:18pm | ! Report

            And another thing… wtf does ‘not built for the 15 game’ actually mean?

            How are you built Slat? ๐Ÿ˜‰

            • August 18th 2017 @ 5:25pm
              Jibba Jabba said | August 18th 2017 @ 5:25pm | ! Report

              Yep Chook spot on, the props were built like the regular outhouses,(one of the kiwi girls must be close to 120 / 130kg) the locks tall and athletic, the loosies like loosies, the centres like centres and the wingers like speed merchants. Slat needs to open them there blinds….

    • August 18th 2017 @ 11:57am
      Perthstayer said | August 18th 2017 @ 11:57am | ! Report

      Hi Mary,

      thanks for the article. Rugby Union in Australia has no future unless the Women’s game rises in the same tide.

      Anyone with business acumen knows women’s game can target new sponsors or leverage more $ off existing ones. And it is all about the $$’s.

      Not be crass but women make many of the key consumer decisions, be it house, car, schools, holidays.

      I also hope there will more female Roarites. Give some of these crusty old buggers a run for their money!!

      • Columnist

        August 18th 2017 @ 2:20pm
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | August 18th 2017 @ 2:20pm | ! Report

        Thanks Perthstayer! Appreciate your comment and the sentiment too!

    • Roar Rookie

      August 18th 2017 @ 12:09pm
      papagaai said | August 18th 2017 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

      Personally I have been watching, and enjoying the woman’s rugby world cup.
      Their game shows the same commitment and pleasure their male counterparts used to get when rugby was not clogged with money hungry players.
      If Fox started a channel dedicated to female sport it would be a winner.,,,,and attract sponsors for the teams.

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