Girls' rugby revolution is proving big at Bognor
Coach Al Nicolson assists Steve Andrews and Les Dowling in running girls’ rugby at Bognor RFC. Here, he outlines how it is booming – and what opportunities exist for would-be players.
To say girls’ rugby at Bognor RFC has gone from strength to strength is recent years is an understatement.
As the new season gets into full swing at Hampshire Avenue, we are looking to build on success achieved before the Covid pandemic that affected so many activities. They are looking to recruit girls aged between 11 and 15 to go and have a go.
Ladies’ rugby has grown in popularity in recent years: England Ladies (known as the Red Roses) are No1 in the world and have won back to back Six Nations Grand Slam winners.
Felpham’s Jess Breach, who plays for Harlequins, is central to England’s success and it is achievements like this that motivate the Bognor girls, and the club hope to inspire others to give rugby a go.
The girls’ team was formed in 2015 by former Bognor player and boys’ youth coach Steve Andrews. He noticed the growing enthusiasm for ladies’ rugby and was keen to pass on his knowledge to girls interested in learning and playing.
He said: “I just want the girls to come along and have fun, it’s not about winning it’s about the taking part.”
We apply rugby ‘TREDS’ principles, which is Teamwork, Respect, Enjoyment, Discipline and Sportsmanship. And while there are many laws in rugby, this is more about learning the skills and drills, then applying them in games against other teams.
We don’t expect those who come along to know what rugby is all about, that’s what they do in training. The best way to learn is just to get playing.
The Flamingos team are from different local schools and different age groups, so it’s a great mix of ability, but they enjoy it and gain something from it, whether it’s a sense of camaraderie or improved fitness.
Some girls are serious and want to improve and progress, and others come for the fun, banter and enjoyment.
For those that do want to progress, there are regular training camps held by Harlequins and training sessions for the Sussex League. It is opportunities like this that create the stars of the future.
What’s also great about being part of the Flamingos is that there is a genuine team ethic and family vibe that includes the girls’ parents, who can be as involved as much or as little as they like.
We have get-togethers outside of rugby that have previously included a curry night, paintballing, an annual tour and there’s an end of season awards ceremony at the club.
Such was the momentum of the team’s success, when it came to getting the new kit for the up and coming season, the Bognor RFC crest was modified to incorporate a pink flamingo.
Like so many sporting activities, Covid did impact and for a while stopped training and playing from taking place completely.
The RFU (which Bognor RFC is affiliated to), worked closely with health officials to ensure that when training could take place it was undertaken safely and in strict adherence to RFU stipulation.
Thankfully we are now able to return to proper training and playing and as such are getting into the 2021-22 season to get everyone back on track, and back to doing what the team enjoy doing so much.
The coaches and team representatives are all DBS certified and are trained first aiders, including a female first aider.
Those who watch rugby will know how seriously safety is taken and this is reflected at grass-roots club level – again being RFU affiliated, it is a fundamental aspect of rugby.
And the girls’ safety and well-being is absolutely paramount. The coaches and reps are volunteers and do it for their passion of the game and for the teams enjoyment of playing.
The cost of joining is £60 per season, fantastic when compared to some teams and clubs, and this cost is largely to cover the insurance that is part of the RFU affiliation.
New starters are given a team kit and need to have a gum shield and rugby or football boots. Being a club member also provides other perks such as reduced-price access to the big games.
Training is held at Bognor Rugby Club in Hampshire Avenue (PO21 5JH) on Wednesday evenings between 7pm and 8.30pm and on Sundays between 10am and midday – unless there is a match which can either be at home or away, when start and finish times vary.
For further information or a friendly chat with the coaches call Steve Andrews 07540 465963 or Les Dowling 07980 351506. Or just turn up at the club and watch. If you like the look of it, join in – there’s no pressure to sign up straight away.