Friends, family and having fun. These 3 F’s are what drew Western Districts player Bryony Epa to play rugby and coming into her 20th season, the fun hasn’t stopped just yet. Rugby Victoria got the chance to chat with Epa on International Women’s Day, as she discusses her rugby goals and shares how she sees the future of women’s rugby union.
In her early twenties, Bryony Epa would drive her family to rugby training and games, where a fascination for the game grew. After 3 years of being the spectator, Epa became the player.
“I used to sit and watch my family from the sidelines and at first I didn’t get what the fascination was. But slowly what became apparent to me was the friendships that were being made, this is what drew me in to want to start training and playing (women’s rugby).”
Her career started at the Melbourne Unicorns, then moving to Power House where a number of grand finals were won. The latest memories have been made at Western Districts (WD), of which Bryony was a founding member who was instrumental in establishment of the teams’ current pillar format; development of the teams core values, strategic plan and leadership structure. Nowadays, WD boasts a strong foundation for other women to realise their rugby dreams.
For Epa, International Women’s Day is about celebrating the women that have stood up to the gender norms and perceptions that are traditionally held in sports such as rugby. Without these women Epa may have never had the opportunity to play rugby.
“(IWD) is an important day because it shines a light on how women locally and globally have challenged gender inequality, and how through them, the generations of women and youth girls to come will now have a seat at the table.”
One of the major reasons for the growth of women’s rugby is the Women’s Rugby Development Association (WRDA). This association has had a significant role in shaping and maintaining the women’s competition in Victoria. WRDA has helped a number of initiatives forward in partnership with Rugby Victoria including; the Women’s only Foundation Coaching Course, the Ann Nicholson Award for the Female Volunteer of the Year and helped to organise gala days for Victorian women to come and play together at a common ground.
The WRDA has been working tirelessly behind the scenes to help raise the profile of women’s rugby in Victoria and help to promote participation.
Today, alongside her WRDA duties as the head of social media and her playing commitments, Bryony is an active Director of the Rugby Victoria Board; a role of which she has held since being elected by her peers in 2017. Being of Samoan descent, Bryony brings an understanding of the challenges and opportunities for pacific island players and communities to the Board and Rugby Vic administration. It is the combination of her experiences and passion for the game that sees Epa as one of the many female ambassadors to thank for the growth of the female game of rugby. In 10 years, she hopes to see major changes at both national and local level.
“(Nationally) To see women’s rugby professionalised in Australia and women paid to play at a representative level would be great for the game and for gender equality,
“In terms of the administration, seeing women in paid positions to coach, manage teams and growth in overall female board representation would be great to see.
“(Locally) I hope to see rugby as a top 3 preferred community sport for women.”
With these long-term goals in sight, Epa is now helping the choose to challenge hashtag of 2021 by challenging those gender inequalities in rugby and helping to break down the age gap so that rugby is not only a game for both genders, but for all ages.
“Rugby is an inclusive sport that’s not only fun but challenging at the same time. It teaches you so many life skills such as how to handle situations under pressure, resilience and adapting to each situation. These are skills that will help you navigate life both on and off the field.”
What’s next for Bryony?
On-field, Bryony will continue to don the blue, black and yellow this season featuring in the Western Districts’ front row.
Off-field, she is in her final year of her Bachelor of Laws at Victoria University.
To find out more about the WDRA, see here
To find out more about Womens’ rugby and our junior girls programs, please email Samantha.firstname.lastname@example.org