Experts believe Endeavour Hills RUFC is the first rugby club in the world to host a day dedicated to celebrating and respecting women and girls in rugby.
The initiative was driven by the player leaders after they learned about research by Monash University and the Victorian Government which has found big gaps in the equality of men and women in rugby and other sports.
Negative banter about women also remains common and deters girls from participation.
“The men in the leadership group made a decision to step up this season, change our behaviour, and put a strong focus on ensuring the club is welcoming to women,” said Ata Manu, the Eagles club captain.
“We were surprised, because this has actually made the club better for everyone and really changed the vibe at The Nest.”
Manu said it has been nearly a decade since his club has had a women’s team, something the leadership group wanted to change. Prior to the season they advertised for women who wanted to play rugby and “only four or five players came to a practice session, and some were not eligible because they were too young.”
He said “we focused on supporting the women who came to training, we included them in our pre-season training, in our social events, and it wasn’t long before the 3 players brought their friends, and then those women brought their friends, and next thing we knew we had a full team.”
“This weekend we are celebrating our women’s team, which is now on top of the ladder and undefeated, and we also have nearly 10 girls participating in the state rugby camp. These girls are the future of our club and to be honest, I think they are the future of our sport,” explained Manu.
Moega Wright, one of the captains of the women’s team, joined the Eagles after playing rugby in Brisbane for the last five years.
“We’ve really appreciated the efforts by the men to make us feel welcome and treat us as equals. It feels like we are playing as one club, with everyone supporting each other. I know women at other clubs sometimes feel like they are outsiders,” said Wright.
“Everyone at the Eagles, from our President down to the players have been so supportive of our women’s team, which has made playing rugby really enjoyable.”