The profile of women’s rugby has increased rapidly in recent years – and Cadishead Rhinos are one of the clubs assisting that growth.
The rugby league club, on Lord’s Street, Cadishead, have been running women’s touch rugby sessions for the past 18 months, having found mixed touch rugby sessions steadily growing.
Marissa Chaplin is a former photographer at Rhinos turned under-nine coach and manager of the women’s touch rugby team. She is the linchpin of that sector and is “proud of what we’ve managed to achieve.”
Though, before getting to that stage, the mixed sessions began with just Marissa, her daughter and another woman along with the rest of the men.
Marissa said: “My idea was to get more women involved in rugby league.If the women know that it’s definitely mixed, they won’t want to know. It kind of puts them off a little bit.
“Me and my daughter stuck it out and I then put the suggestion to the managers last year. ‘Look if we do it on the same night, but we say the training session is just for women and the lads can do their own thing, hopefully, my idea was to bring them in then once they’d got used to actually playing with them.
“Some of them were just parents, mums, so they’d stood and watched but they’d never actually played and I don’t think they understood the concept of touch rugby – that there was no contact in it apart from a touch and that was it.
She continued: “We had about 10 come down on the first session and then as we built up over the weeks, my suggestion was ‘right, how about we carry on our training as ladies, but then at the end of the hour, join in with the lads’, just to get them used to playing against them.”
Some stayed. Some left. After a rather quiet period, Marissa kept “pushing and mythering” on social media and then a new set of ladies, of roughly 14, have been involved for the last year.
LADIES TOUCH RUGBY ??
Ladies, come and join us tomorrow morning for our Ladies Touch Rugby training session – 9:30-11:30am
— Cadishead Rhinos RL (@CadisheadRhinos) February 14, 2020
Paul Elliot, club secretary for Cadishead Rhinos, feels that the sessions are “very important” and added that “it’s a great way of keeping fit and they have a fantastic social side as well to the sport.”
Physical and social benefits are not the advantages of touch rugby as Marissa continued: “I’ve always suffered with [my] confidence, anxiety, and depression so that was one of the reasons I noticed when I started doing it, that my mental health got better.
“As time went on, I found that the ladies were saying how much their mood had improved.”
It is work as such from Marissa that earned her a nomination as Volunteer of the Year at the Salford Sports Awards 2019 for helping change lifestyles.
Elliot continued: “The enthusiasm and interest there has helped to bring new people to the sport as well.”
That is certainly the case too. There are now over 30,000 women and girls playing regularly at club, twice as many as in 2014, with a 28% increase in registered players since 2017. Not only are women and girls getting involved, but they are also finding happiness within the sport too.
How rewarding it is to see them enjoying themselves? “It’s brilliant. It’s absolutely brilliant. [We’ve come] from 12-18 months ago where there were two or three of us that were willing to give it a go because it was always a case of ‘I might do, I might do’ – then they don’t show up.”
“You said come and play touch rugby… you said it would be fun and it’s battering it down with rain, but they still turn up, even in the weather we’ve just had, they still train”, she joked.
“If I’ve managed to achieve that, we can keep building on that.”
Indeed they can, despite a lack of other women’s touch rugby sides, if they can keep attracting women to the game and encourage others, then Cadishead Rhinos will only keep delivering on their original purpose.