At the start of this term, after years of trying to establish a women’s team, the Somerville-Corpus Women’s Rugby Football Club held their inaugural training session in University Parks. Since then, the team has gone from strength to strength, winning both of their opening Cuppers matches, and going into the final match of term at the top of their group.
The dream had always been to be able to field a women’s team made up of players from Somerville and Corpus Christi, but it wasn’t until this year that it became reality. Last year, a few players took part in mixed touch rugby Cuppers but only one was involved in the fifteen aside game. This year on the other hand, the team can boast a regular squad of 25, with players coming from a wide range of years and friendship groups, around ten of whom attend weekly university training at Iffley Road. This sudden rise was amazing to see and seems predominantly to be the result of a large group of interested freshers taking up the sport and sparking interest in other year groups. After a couple of training sessions, as word spread, we were lucky to have a wider squad of 35, which continues to grow as new players keep joining every week.
From a coaching perspective, it was a unique opportunity because we were starting with adults who had either played a small amount of touch rugby or had no rugby-playing experience at all, with only a few weeks until our first match. Despite having played little to no rugby, everyone had experience from a vast array of other ball sports, so we wanted to build on the hand-eye coordination the players had already developed. Our first training session started with a game of rugby netball, the idea being that we began with a game that felt familiar, built on existing skills and therefore encouraged everybody to throw themselves into the session. As time went on, we were able to introduce more rules one by one, gradually transitioning the game away from netball until it seamlessly merged into touch rugby.
Since that first session, the progress the team has made has been phenomenal and it is amazing to see the huge strides that everybody is making on a weekly basis. Although the men’s and women’s Somerville-Corpus teams are separate, we are one club and have formed a strong relationship between the two sides, both on and off the pitch. We are lucky to be able to train at the same time as one another in University Parks and we finish every session with two simultaneous games of joint touch, creating a great opportunity for both sides to learn and also to bond as a club. The men’s team has also been very supportive, with individual players giving their time to do specialist coaching and big groups coming down to watch all of the women’s matches.
I have been immensely impressed by the faultless commitment of the whole team, consistently getting brilliant numbers down to each session, and I am incredibly thankful to Barnaby Vaughan, Meryem Arik and Captain Liberty Conlon who form a wonderful coaching team. My role has been made remarkably easy by being surrounded by great coaches and talented players who come and throw themselves into every training session, no matter what.
On a personal level, I am so grateful for the opportunity to be involved with such a special group and the team has made my life so easy by being such a pleasure to coach. It is amazing to now have two teams under the banner of SCRFC, training alongside one another and supporting each other both on and off the field. The journey so far has been wonderful, long may it continue.