Oceania Rugby hopes to capitalise on the region’s success at the Tokyo Olympic Games as it promotes female participation at all levels of the game during ‘Women in Rugby… Respect’ month.

Starting on Wednesday, Oceania Rugby will celebrate the achievements of Women in Rugby in the region through a series of themed events taking place throughout September.

October will mark a year until the start of Rugby World Cup 2021, and the regional governing body hopes that showcasing the accomplishments of women from Oceania can help to challenge stereotypes and inspire the next generation to get involved both on and off the pitch.

Since 2015, there has been a 200 per cent increase in the number of female rugby players worldwide, and the talent contained within the region was on full display during Tokyo 2020.

Olympic success celebrated

New Zealand won the gold medal at Tokyo Stadium, the country’s first in sevens, while the Fijiana beat Great Britain to secure bronze — becoming the first women from the Pacific Island nation to earn their place on an Olympic podium.

On Tuesday, 7 September, Fiji captain Rusila Nagasau and Rio 2016 gold medallist Sharni Williams will be among the panellists on a webinar entitled ‘The Olympic Experience’.

Also featuring Black Ferns Sevens team manager Toni Young and Australian match official Tyler Miller, the session will showcase on-pitch heroes and critical off-field leaders who play a pivotal role in their team’s success.

It is the first of four one-hour webinars that will be held across the next 30 days and will include an open Q&A for participants. 

“Oceania is spring-boarding off wonderful success at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games,” Oceania Rugby General Manager, Bruce Cook said.  

“The women’s rugby sevens tournament was of outstanding quality, New Zealand Black Ferns [Sevens] won their first ever Olympic gold medal in rugby sevens, and the Fijiana, through winning bronze, made history with not only their first women’s rugby medal, but Fiji’s first Olympic medal for any women. 

“It is the perfect foundation for what will be a fantastic month of inspiration, discussion, and celebration. 

“Oceania Rugby is committed to supporting women involved in rugby by making the collective successes visible, shared learning, inspiring women and men to be unstoppable together, and creating dialogue about girls and women in rugby.  

“This month gives us all the opportunity to focus our efforts on these worthy objectives and continue to grow girls and women’s rugby across the amazing region which is Oceania.”

‘Dedicated to changing attitudes’

Subsequent ‘Women in Rugby… Respect’ webinars will discuss the coaching pathway for women in the region, female leadership success stories to learn from and the impact that strength and conditioning coaching can have on players.

Panellists will include the Black Ferns’ RWC 2021 Coaching Intern Whitney Hansen, former Samoa international Filoi Eneliko, World Rugby Women’s Executive Leadership Scholarship recipient Ana Tuiketai and Fiji's strength and conditioning coach, Naca Cawanibuka. 

National unions within Oceania are joining the campaign by delivering local girls and women’s focused clinics, festivals, education courses, and sharing stories of their local Women in Rugby champions. 

“Our Member unions, partners and a range of programmes over the past four years have been dedicated to changing attitudes, making rugby safe and accessible to girls and women, providing a complete competition pathway, balancing boards, accelerating the development of women, and growing female representation in all roles both on and off the field,” Cook said.

“The initiatives are bearing fruit with unprecedented rates of participation by girls in the grassroots Get into Rugby programme across the region, a growing supporter base and increasing numbers of female coaches, match officials and board members, and flourishing elite level women’s competitions.”

Details of September’s 'Women in Rugby… Respect' month activities, including information on how to register for the webinars, are available on the Oceania Rugby website.

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