By James Kite
The best players from the Women’s Brisbane Premier competition assembled yesterday at Ballymore to get a run down on what they needed to do regarding their aspirations to represent their State. The information they would receive at this meeting was not only shocking but also another display of the Queensland Rugby Union’s true and utter failure to adequately cater for women’s 15’s rugby in Queensland over the last couple of years.
Before we can elaborate on the farcical terms provided yesterday evening, to be able to totally appreciate last night’s debacle, we need to do a brief background.
Two weeks ago, players who had expressed an interest for selection in the State team, were sent an email outlining the payment scheme to be able to play.
The correspondence advised that if successful, they had to pay a $1000 fee by the 15th of June after the team was named on the 1st of June.
Fast forward to yesterday evening’s meeting and those in attendance were given a totally different run down. The ladies were advised the team would now be chosen this Wednesday and in order to secure their place in the team they had to pay $400 (towards a total fee of $1000) in a time frame of just two days.
The unreasonable and unexpected change in deadline effectively robbing the female aspirants a “fair go” to try and muster the required funds together. Going from an initial time frame of two and a half weeks to an unbelievable two days.
After speaking with many players present at this meeting (all who did not wish to be named for fear of not being selected) one player advised,
After pretty much being advised there were’nt any alternative payment options… The majority of the room just looked gutted.
Players further advised the QRU representative at the meeting explained that the lack of funding available was due to a variety of factors.
The main reason provided was that the ARU allegedly, only advised of the tournament going ahead after the QRU financial allocations to women’s 15’s rugby in the budget had already been completed.
The QRU continued shifting the blame on the ARU, when they further advised the organisations major focus on 7’s was based on a directive they received by the ARU to purely focus on 7’s due to the Rio Olympics.
Offering a glimmer of hope for the future, the players at the meeting were then advised that the QRU would shift more attention to the 15’s format next year by trying to secure greater sponsorship support but that it was a ‘tough’ market.
Before going into the fundamental issues of State jerseys being available for those who can pay instead of those who cannot, some serious questions have to be raised about the explanations provided by the QRU to the female aspirants and their overall commitment to women’s 15 a side rugby.
Firstly, let’s briefly unpack the QRU blaming the ARU for players having to fork out $1000 because they failed to inform them of the tournament in time for the budget.
Players from the 2013 Queensland Women’s squad advised costs to participate in the Nationals in Sydney that year was just shy of $900 in total.
Taking things such as inflation, and the higher cost of goods and services into consideration, one could argue this year’s cost is proportionately the same compared to 2 years ago.
This suggests that in 2013, just like this year, the QRU again did not adequately forecast for women’s 15 a side rugby. Which is astounding considering it was the year before the Women’s Rugby World Cup when anticipation in the 15 a side format is always high. Arewe to believe that the ARU is to blame here too?
Interestingly, players in the male Queensland Suburban team just one year prior to 2013, travelling to the same location only had to fork out $200 for the privilege to represent their State. Why the marked disparity?
The QRU’s explanation regarding the ARU advising them to focus purely on 7’s has taken the women’s game in Queensland backwards.
Lets look at the way the 7’s program is set up. Talent is identified from within the code, also from various other different sports or codes and then they are invited to train.
The issue is, once those players are selected they are under no obligation to officially tie themselves to a club and strengthen the code’s foundation.
Whilst there are players who do play club, after going through the weekly Brisbane Women’s Premier team lists, there are numerous players in the QLD Womens 7’s program yet to lace a boot in anger for a club this year.
What sort of culture is being developed here when you only need to commit to a “version” of the game, instead of making a full time commitment to the game itself? Is the mindless pursuit of gold in Rio worth the detriment it will bring the 15 a side female format of the game in the short and long term?
Unpacking the sentiments conveyed regarding finances for women’s 15s being a “hard” market. This explanation quite simply, just isn’t good enough.
All women’s sports share the same obstacles and challenges for funding, and women playing rugby union are not a unique species when it comes to trying to secure the corporate dollar.
While the aspiring elite union players of Queensland are being asked to fork out $1000 just for the right to play for their State, a Queensland women’s divisional rugby league team is paying nothing.
The extended South East Queensland women’s rugby league squad were recently in camp on the Gold Coast over the weekend (just to trial) and all expenses were paid for.
Further, if they were then successful in making the final team which is announced today, they go into camp for three days at the Sea World resort to prepare for their tournament and yep you guessed it, all expenses paid.
The ironic almost farcical thing here is, there are players trialling for this league squad that will most probably make the final squad, who are also in the QLD 7’s program but do not or have not turned out for a club in the Brisbane Premiership competition this year.
How our league counterparts can manage to find funding for a divisional State team and the QRU can’t find complete or partial funding for a team the last two years, that supposedly represents the entire State beggars absolute logical belief.
Women’s 15’s rugby has put up with a lot of obstacles and will continue to do so in the future, that is not something new.
But robbing female aspirants of an opportunity at the absolute last minute to try and source funds to represent their State is a terribly unfair, unjust and irresponsible approach in this day and age.
The lack of administrative foresight by the QRU basically turns the State team into one that ultimately depends on your financial capability more than your football capability, where the jersey is for sale to the privileged instead of what wearing the maroon jersey should always be about for the countless many across all grades and genders who have worn it before…a privilege.
The QRU’s continued antics continue to tarnish the efforts to rid Australian rugby union of its exclusive white collar traditions that hamper capturing the imaginations of the wider public.
The QRU can no longer hide behind the ARU as the reason for the way it has dropped the ball with women’s 15 a side rugby. Somewhere along the way the organisation needs to be accountable for its very real role in this dilemma. Until it does, the female 15 a side game can never hope to grow.