Volunteers are the backbone of every sport, and women’s rugby is no different.
Without the efforts of these individuals, some teams and clubs would either not exist or would not have grown to their current numbers.
All clubs see players come and go throughout the seasons, but this is even more evident in women’s rugby where motherhood and maternity leave come into play.
While players have an essential role in the teams, the time that managers, coaching staff, parents and partners invest in the club cannot be underestimated.
A diverse number of roles are available to help women remain committed and engaged in their local club and community.
Anna Marie Russell, 36, from Wexford, retired from rugby at the end of last season after a rib injury never fully recovered.
Wexford Wanderers RFC, affectionately known as the Vixens, are known for their strong pack and formidable maul as well as their pacey back line; they are also equally well known for their sense of fun and can often be seen in various states of fancy dress enjoying the social side of the game.
Anna Marie played in the front row throughout her rugby career. She was a late bloomer to rugby, she says, as she started playing five years ago with her sister after a tag rugby tournament during the summer that got them hooked. They also played with their two sisters-in-law and their brother who plays for the Beijing Devils.
“It took us a long time to go from being spectators to players but we wouldn’t be without it. Rugby is a family affair,” she says.
“I am very proud to have been part of that team for five years. I think the future of women’s rugby is going to be incredible and want to play whatever small part I can in that.”
When Anna Marie knew that she couldn’t play rugby anymore, she felt a little bit lost and knew that she would have to be involved at some level.
“The club was hoping to develop a new under-14 girls team and with some gentle encouragement, I decided to take on that role. I honestly thought there was nothing that could top the feeling of playing rugby until I started coaching these girls.”
In her role as coordinator for girls’ and women’s rugby with the club she also plans to develop the minis section for girls next season.
“Passing on what I have learned and the opportunity to instil a love of the game in the next generation of women’s rugby players is really special,” says Russell, emphasising the importance of being involved in the club after her days as a player
“Teaching them that they are strong and equal and can achieve their goals with hard work and commitment is one of the most important aspects of the role. We have nearly 30 girls training with us and an amazing and committed team of coaches and supporters.”
Find your local club and get involved using our Club Finder.
If you want to help to grow the girls’ or women’s game at your local club or school, contact your local Community Rugby Officer.
This article first appeared in the official Leinster Rugby match day programme, available to purchase at every Leinster Rugby home game.