IT is an exciting time for women’s rugby union in Australia and as the national body looks to continue the growth of the sport, amongst those working to make that happen is a pair of Bathurst coaches.
Murray Hooper and Mick Burgess are co-coaches of the new New South Wales Country Eagles side which is aligned with the National Rugby Championship franchise of the same name.
Along with the Greater Sydney Rams and Sydney Rays, the Eagles are contesting the new Kerry Chikarovski Cup.
NSW Rugby board member Chikarovski backed the competition to give women more chances to play competitive rugby in a 15-a-side format.
Hooper, who also coached the NSW Country Corellas alongside Burgess, thinks the cup is a step in the right direction.
“It’s a great initiative and it’s giving girls the exposure at that next level. It is a competitive environment for the girls to go out and have a run, it’s not like they are against a fully fledged Sydney team,” he said.
“I think if they can grab onto this sort of concept and grow the program, it’s only going to benefit women’s rugby in the country.
“We’ve guaranteed ourselves a spot at the next World Cup for women by finishing sixth and if we want to better that position and be competitive at that tournament in four years’ time, the girls have to be playing consistent, hard rugby.
“An NRC environment for the girls would be ideal, they’d played consistent rugby and play good games … it could be a great stepping stone for us if they could advance it and grow it over the next couple of years.”
The Eagles had their first outing on September 2 and while they went down 49-7 to the Rams, Hooper explained his side had a less than ideal preparation.
“It wasn’t pretty, but in saying that, for the late throwing together of the team, the team really did muscle up,” he said.
“The first 20-25 minutes was really even being 7-all, but the Rams really came home strongly and obviously having a majority of their team playing for Sydney Uni, it had the combinations together and that’s why they rolled over us in the second half.
“We just didn’t have the legs or combinations given the lack of training together.
“[But] It was good for myself and Burgo to be able to be on that stage.”
The Bathurst coaches will have a bigger player pool to work with for their next game against the Rays in Goulburn on Monday, October 2.