Hartlepool Rovers Inner Warriors have more to celebrate than their second birthday
Hartlepool Rovers celebrate their second birthday and prepare to enter the 2017/18 season with four contact female rugby sides.
Rovers Women and Girls section has continued to blossom since their first launch of an U13 Touch rugby team in 2013.
Back in their early days, Rovers U13s were made up from a number of girls that travelled around Durham County to play in Touch Rugby festivals. But, as the interest continued and coaches could see the team growing worth, they leaped to playing full contact by the end of the 2015/16 season.
Each season, Rovers have taken that extra step to continue growing their female section with the great support of coaches, volunteers and RFU Professional staff.
Phil Wallis, RFU Community Rugby Coach for South Durham, said: “Rovers are a very keen and well supported club.
“The Coaches are very enthusiastic about the women and girls section and have developed a great team ethos and culture that players, parents and volunteers are thriving to be a part of.
“They have all taken to it, like ducks to water and become a true rugby family”
Behind the Durham Northumberland Division One Senior Men’s Club are coaches Darren Smith, who also coaches the County U15 Girls representative side and Emily Hunter, Darlington Mowden Park Sharks Super League player.
Coach Darren Smith said: “Hartlepool Rovers are part of the RFU All Schools programme and we have coaches that attend sessions at schools which has helped us to gain momentum in gathering a girls section at the club.
“We also host girls schools festivals at the club to help with the transition from school rugby to club rugby.”
With all the support and backing of the women and girls section at the club, they were able to hit several milestones in their development, such as their girls section growing to 30 players playing contact rugby allowing them to field both an U13 and U15 team during the 2016/17 season.
But, of course that was not enough for the newly formed side as the U15s started their own tally sheet of success stories throughout the season. Achievements for the side included; seven players playing representative rugby for Durham County of which one player- Mia Simpson went on to play for North of England, making it to the Area 6 National Cup Semi-final after combining with Horden and Peterlee and coming runners up in Durham County sevens tournament.
Wallis commented on their success saying: “They have shown phenomenal progress since beginning their journey as a club.
“All the teams have grown significantly and they now have players joining them left, right and centre.”
Hartlepool Rovers girls are set for the 2017/18 season with players in each age category as girls move up into U18s.
So what else would be left to achieve for the South Durham side?
Darren Smith, Lead of Women and Girls at Rovers explained that the success of the junior teams sparked the idea to develop a ladies side.
He added: “We had a small group of girls turn up at the club on a training night and ask to get involved, so we held some touch rugby sessions with them.
“From there it continued to escalate and we soon became an RFU focus club for Women and Girls.
“We have been really impressed with the effort and commitment of our females and we want to mirror that commitment back to them and give them an environment they can develop into confident and competent rugby players.”
In January 2017 Rovers lit the flame to guide Women into the club in which was shortly followed by the launch of the RFU #InnerWarrior campaign to get more females into playing rugby.
By tagging on the back of the launch they were able to grow their start up figures of eight women to an impressive 40 women and girls at their first ever pitch up and play event.
Smith explained that the Inner Warrior events were such a success as they advertised them across social media platforms, on the local radio, in the press and even went into the town centre to hand out leaflets.
He added: “All but two or three of our ladies are brand new to the game and they are all as keen as one another.”
The short five months between January and the end of the season in May have been busy ones for Rovers Ladies. They have successfully signed up 30 Women to their contact team, played their first ever two contact fixtures as a team against Windemere Women and Morpeth Ladies, had six players in the Durham County Ladies Development squad and been accepted into the Women’s Northern Conference North East Two League for the 2017/18 season.
As they look ahead to their prosperous 2017/18 season, Smith commented: “It has been successful but not without a lot of hard work and determination.
“Our next aim is to have a full under 18s team next season which will give us a full girls section.
“We will look to progress into the National Cup and continue to push our girls towards County and North of England representation.
“For our ladies this is very much a season of consolidation. Having just been accepted into the leagues we will look to fulfil all of our fixtures and keep developing as we are.
“As well, we aim to have two ladies team with a competitive first team and a development team.
“The development team will be an offer for those wanting more of a social game but also a place for new players to gain valuable game time without the pressures of league rugby.”
Throughout next season, Rovers will make a few close journeys as they take on Bishop Auckland, Novocastrians, Acklam and Morpeth.
Their first home fixture is on Sunday, October 8 2017 against Morpeth.
To find out more about the Women and Girls section, check out their website here