A new milestone was achieved at the Australian Services Rugby Championships (ASRC) last week when Navy fielded a full women's fifteen for the first time in more than a decade.
With female officers and sailors comprising over 18 percent of the Navy's ranks, the Royal Australian Navy Rugby Union (RANRU) felt that the time was right to make the commitment to fielding a full team in the 2014 ASRC events.
RANRU Women's Coach Lieutenant Commander Amanda Folkes explained that for the past four years Navy and Air Force had faced off in a ten-a-side match, and then combined as the 'two blues' to field a full fifteen against Army.
"Each year Air Force beat Navy in the ten-a-side game.
"This year, we took to the field against Air Force with a team that included nine players in their first game for Navy—six of them playing their first competition game of rugby.
"So I was hugely proud when the Navy Women won convincingly against Air Force," Lieutenant Commander Folkes said.
The final match was against a well established Army Women's team that has six national players, including four Wallaroos and two 'seven's' competitors.
RANRU Women's player Leading Seaman Kerryn Seaborn, a Navy rookie with a touch football background, described the experience as being 'a bit daunting'.
"The Army women were deserving winners that were hard to contain.
"The Army girls said that the final score didn't reflect how tough the match was," Leading Seaman Seaborn said.
Women have served at sea in Royal Australian Navy ships since the mid 1980s, holding key positions at all levels including Command in frigates, support ships, patrol boats and bases around Australia.
With female crew members standing side-by-side with their male colleagues throughout the fleet, it is appropriate that the Men's and Women's Navy Rugby squads integrated as 'one union' in preparation for the championships.
The 'one union' gathered in Canberra for a pre-competition training camp, which was described by RANRU Vice President, Captain Nick Stoker, as being excellent preparation for Royal Australian Navy Rugby.
"The camp was characterised by an extremely healthy culture.
"The Committee and all the members of RANRU are really proud of the effort put in by the women.
They earned great respect as individuals and as a team over the course of their preparations and the Championships," said Captain Stoker.
RANRU Women's coach, Lieutenant Commander Folkes, underscored this pride.
"I couldn't be more proud of the effort put in and the teamwork shown by all the players.
"They never once gave up, despite facing a big hitting Army team, showing a determination to fight and win," Lieutenant Commander Foulks said.
RANRU Women were selected for nine positions in the Australian Service Rugby Union (ASRU) squad, from which teams for upcoming State and National Seven-a-side and Fifteen-a-side competitions will be selected.
"We would like to encourage Navy women to give the game of rugby a try and be part of the team and an inspiring rugby culture," said Lieutenant Commander Folkes.
Lieutenant Commander Rose Apikotoa is the RANRU ‘Women’s Advocate’ who plays an important role in championing the sport amongst women at all levels across Navy, and mentoring individuals who embrace the challenge of aspiring to represent Navy at the national level.
A former Navy representative player herself, Lieutenant Commander Apikotoa encourages any women contemplating giving rugby a go to contact her through the RANRU at email@example.com.
For information on getting involved in the RAN Rugby Union please visit http://www.navyrugby.asn.au.