WIVES and girlfriends are no longer relegated to the sidelines at the football.
More women and girls than ever from the Riverina are participating in the four football codes, donning their boots for a game of soccer, league tag, rugby union or Australian rules.
Interest in women’s rugby union has snowballed since the inception of the Southern Inlands Rugby Union women’s sevens competition, with five clubs registering in 2013, eight clubs in 2014, and 11 clubs registered this season.
“It’s just growing and growing,” SIRU women’s rugby director Harriet Elleman said.
Southern Inland community manager Mick McTaggart is just as impressed.
“The numbers don’t lie; we’re over the moon with it.”
McTaggart was insistent on featuring the women’s grand final match as the curtain raiser for the men’s grand final in 2013 and 2014.
“The last two years have been the best lead up to grand finals we’ve ever had.”
League tag was introduced in 2008; a friendlier alternative to rugby league and junior league for women and girls.
in 2008, 37 girls were playing league tag in the Group 20 competition, and now there are 687 registered players.
Senior registrations peaked quickly, as Country Rugby League regional manager David Skinner said most clubs can only accommodate for one division of league tag, due to time and ground limitations on Sunday.
As more women and girls participate, the culture of football is changing to become more holistic.
“It’s keeping families together; if mum and dad have a boy and girl, they can go to the same ground and spend the day watching the kids,” Skinner said.
The newly-introduced league tag and rugby union sevens competitions have not dented participation rates in women’s soccer, as Football Wagga has eight per cent more women registered to play this season.
Football Wagga has seen its most significant growth in the junior age groups this season, with 26 per cent more girls aged 5-11 years registered and a 14 per cent rise in girls aged 12-18.
Riverina Lions women’s coach Dan Lloyd said Aussie Rules is taking off locally particularly among school-aged girls.
“We’re starting to get more involvement with the younger girls; that’s where the future is,” he said.
He said Lions have taken on players who have been introduced to Aussie rules through development programs such as Auskick.
“Were getting more and more numbers that way,” Lloyd said.
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