Women’s sport week and the launch of the “Red Roses” campaign has been a great to be reminder to me of some of the fantastic rugby moments I have been lucky enough to witness first hand.
I have to say my experiences of rugby have been hugely influenced by the women playing the game. My rugby club Chesham has had a women’s team for 25 years and many of the clubs best players have represented that team. Boo Chard the phenomenal flanker who was a force of nature on a rugby pitch. I remember her talking about what she looks for as a flanker: the twitch in the opposition back who is going to get the ball from a move and she would make that her target player. A player way ahead of her time and who possessed skills many could only dream off. I could list loads of others all whom have been influences on my own rugby. Chesham is where I first tried my hand at coaching, when I took on a role as a scrum coach and the rest is history.
I have been lucky enough to see the last two world cup finals, the sadness of the defeat in 2010 and the joy and relief of 2014. I have seen countless premiership games and there are many players who have stood out along the way. Jen Mills the Worcester flanker (wherever she was needed player) who technically was probably the best tackler I have ever seen in rugby. Amy Turner a player with a skill set so rare it saw her capped at hooker and scrum half. Emily Braund is another player who has all-round skills that makes her a great player to watch and top quality lineout skill. The pace of Jo Mcgilcrist a second row, who in the final of 2010 to chased down the Kiwi winger to stop a certain score. Marlie Packer of whom it has been said; is the player you want on the pitch in the dark wintry games when you need someone who won’t give up. Georgina Gulliver the Saracens scrum half was another player who I love to watch her control of the forwards was exactly what you would want as a forward, clear communication clear direction and a great pass.
Of all the games I have watched there are some stand out performances two stand out: Catherine Spencer in the premiership play off against Thurrock in 2015 playing for Aylesford. In rugby it’s hard for a single player to win a match but she very nearly did. She was an absolute machine driving her team on to a really hard fought win. She was relentless in her play.
The current star of the England Roses who plenty has been written about Emily Scarratt, playing for Lichfield in the 2012/13 season against Worcester, who went on to win the title. She was out of position at fly half but she played a game that was near perfect, kicked from hand accurately put people into space and controlled the game with supreme confidence it was a truly stand out performance.
As for games, Worcester winning the premiership at Wasps in 2013 is probably my favourite. A first time the title went outside of London. The bonus point winning try scored by Pippa Crews who was another outstanding player and who had been instrumental in the Worcester season.
International games France v Australia in 2014 was a game I remember well. Australia were showing what a dangerous side they are with ball in hand and France grinding it out up front to win.
Magali Harvey doing a robbery against France in a scintillating semi-final and then England’s semi-final against Ireland which I think was England’s best performance in a long time. Close to one of their most complete ones.
There a lot of incredible players, far too many to name all of them, who have inspired not only young girls and women but also boys and men to play. Chesham are again where they are at the moment due to the women leading the way in how we play and how we train as a club. That attitude now feeds right the way down to the success we are seeing at the junior’s level. It is a success that is built on the coaches who are not just good female coaches but who are simply really good coaches. Hopefully in the future gender will play less of an important part of the discussion when we talk about the game and its influential players and coaches.