Oceania Rugby – the regional governing body for rugby union for the Pacific Islands, Australia and New Zealand – is partnering with the Australian Government’s PacificAus Sports to positively impact gender-equality in the Pacific through the Oceania Rise Rugby Project.
The project responds to the increasing popularity of rugby for women in the region. Minister for International Development and the Pacific, the Hon. Pat Conroy MP, said;
“This significant, three-year collaboration with Oceania Rugby will positively impact thousands of Pacific women and empower them to participate in sport.
“There has been excellent progress in participation and performance for rugby nations in recent years, [but] there significant inequalities remain for women and girls in rugby. This initiative will provide much needed resourcing to give Pacific women more opportunities to participate in sport.
“We know the Pacific is full of female sporting talent, especially when it comes to rugby. By investing in rugby administration, we are unlocking the great potential of women and girls across the region and helping them take their place as sporting champions of the Pacific.”
Oceania Rugby Women’s Director and World Rugby Council Member, Cathy Wong, was buoyant when announcing Oceania Rise Rugby, with Australian government representatives and officials and players from Tonga, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Fiji – all of whom will benefit from the aspirational project – all present.
“This investment is a game-changer for women in rugby in our region. It focuses on three critical areas of need and impact; women in senior decision making and leadership roles, filling gaps in women’s domestic pathways through the creation of new national women’s competitions in target countries, and enhancing rugby governance across the whole region.”
Oceania Rise Rugby funds initiatives that will boost women in decision-making and leadership roles across the entire region, including Directors training, women’s rugby-specific learning resources, and an Oceania Women in Rugby network and mentoring program.
The project also provides a much-needed injection into women’s rugby in Tonga, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Fiji. In these Pacific nations, support has been provided to establish a new domestic women’s and girls’ rugby competition, appoint new full-time positions in senior management for women, and drive local capacity through the recruitment, training and mentoring of women in on and off-field roles.
Tonga is one of the nations that will receive targeted support through the project. In acknowledgement of the collaboration and Australia’s support for Tonga and other Pacific Island nations, the Deputy Head of Mission, Tonga High Commission, the Honourable Curtis Tu’ihalangingie, presented a gift to the Australian government’s Ambassador for Women, Christine Clarke.
Witnessing the presentation of the gift, Tonga Rugby Union CEO, Peter Harding, expressed how meaningful Australia’s support is.
“Tonga Rugby Union (TRU) is committed to giving all girls and women the opportunity to equally participate in the world’s fastest growing sport, women’s rugby. But, the volcanic eruption of early 2022 was a major setback, and this funding is essential to rebuilding. It gives us the boost we need to kick start our programmes, providing significant playing, and coaching opportunities and enhance our management team. All this will build a base on which our women’s game can thrive.
“Tonga and Australia have long been friends through sport, and we want to thank the Australian Government and Oceania Rugby for supporting TRU and our commitment to women in rugby.”
Solomon Islands Rugby Union Federation (SIRUF) President, George Temahua, was also present at the launch.
“Many thanks and appreciation to the Australian Government under the PacificAus Sports and its Pacific Women Sport Administration Program (PWSAP) for massive assistance that enables gender equality by focusing on specific objectives.
“Rugby plays an important role in the provinces. It can bring rugby communities together. A women’s national 7s tournament will bring in our provincial teams together for the first time. But this initiative will also help SIRUF reach out to provinces, build a wider player base for future selections to represent Solomon Islands, and help girls and boys to become better citizens of Solomon Islands through the Rugby core values.”
Mere Rakoroi, Women’s Director Fiji Rugby Union, said’
“I would like to extend my gratitude to the Australian government and the PacificAus Sports for being a supporting hand to women’s rugby through Fiji Rugby Union. Our recent achievements at the world stage speak for itself, that, if given the right support and opportunity, women’s rugby in Fiji can no doubt rub shoulders with tier one nations. Our Fiji Airways Fijiana 7s won the bronze medal at the Olympic Games, Rooster Chicken Fijiana Drua claimed the Super W title, and recently, the Rooster Chicken Fijiana XVs were crowned the Oceania Champions.
“With Rise Rugby coming on board to assist women’s rugby I have no doubt that we will prosper in coming years. We have recently launched our inaugural Weetbix Raluve Championship which is a third tier of women’s competition. The assistance provided by Rise Rugby will certainly be a boost to Raluve competition which has already generated a huge interest.”
Namulauulu Sami Leota, President of Lakapi Samoa, said;
“Lakapi Samoa greatly appreciates the Australian Government’s support and assistance in funding the growth and development of Women’s rugby in Samoa.
“With steady and gradual transformation of women’s rugby in Samoa – through schools rugby, club competitions and women’s rugby training education – Lakapi Samoa foresees an exciting and robust three years ahead, creating more opportunities and pathways for our women’s rugby in all facets of rugby from players, coaches, referees, and administrators.”
What’s in a name – ‘Rise Rugby’: Oceania Rugby embraced the name ‘Rise Rugby’ after consulting with women across the region. It was chosen for this women’s-focussed initiative, to represent not only the drive for great advances for women in the game, but that these advances will lift rugby for all – ‘A rising tide lifts all boats’.
Article adapted from the Oceania Rugby website.