Women the big winners from Chikarovski Cup

WE ALL know about the golden glow effect that women’s sevens got after the Rio Olympics, well the push is on to make the 15-a-side game just as attractive.

NSW Rugby has taken the first step in this launching the Kerry Chikarovski Cup for teams linked to NRC clubs – Greater Sydney Rams, NSW Country Eagles and Sydney Rays.

The three teams will play each other once with the first-past-the-post winner of the competition receiving the Cup, donated by Kerry Chikarovski who a major supporter of the competition.

The 15-a-side challenge began on the opening week of the men’s NRC competition with the Greater Sydney Rams runaway winners over the NSW Country Eagles 49-7.

As the Chair of the NSW Women’s Rugby Union and a NSWRU Board member Kerry Chikarovski has been a long-time supporter of getting more women into sevens and full team rugby.

“It’s my hope that this competition will grow and that we’ll have more women’s teams (from NRC clubs) in next year,” Chikarovski said.

The women’s game is experiencing strong growth and more are turning to play both versions of the game, something that Kerry says has come from some high profile tournaments.

“Clearly with the Sevens win at Rio and the Wallaroos playing in the Rugby World Cup (in Ireland in August) they now have an audience, a growing audience, who appreciate that women play rugby and they play it really well.”

And as to whether the game can grow further, Chikarovski is hopeful there will be a strong commitment from the national body.

“I am taking it on faith that the ARU are going to honour their commitment that they are going to invest more in the women’s XVs teams and also the development of players.

“I am hoping that the ARU will take a look at how well we can do it in NSW and they will take this as their starting point for the development of the Wallaroos over the next four years.”

Sydney Rays player Emily Robinson says having someone like Chikarovski involved makes a big difference for the girls.

“Kerry’s been really great for women’s ruby and just her support and passion for rugby is the biggest thing. It’s just awesome to be surrounded by influential women who can make a difference for us,” Robinson, a Wallaroo at the recent Rugby World Cup, said.

The competition does come with some of its own problems as the girls representing the NSW Country Eagles have found.

Lock Jemima Henry says distance is one of the issues the Eagles have to overcome.

“We have girls coming from Newcastle and the Hunter region and from Ballina, Moree, Tamworth and Cowra to come and play rugby so obviously distance is our largest problem and it was really hard with some new players coming in but it’s a great competition and brings opportunity,” Jemima said.

The next match in Sydney is at Pittwater Rugby Park on September 16, between the Rays and the Rams.

Round One: NSW Country Eagles vs Greater Sydney Rams, 1pm, Sunday September 3 at TG Millner Field
Round Two: Sydney Rays vs Greater Sydney Rams, 1pm, Saturday September 16 at Pittwater Rugby Park
Round Three: NSW Country Eagles vs Sydney Rays, 1pm, Monday October 2 at Simon Poidevin Oval, Goulburn