Waikato aims for gold for its women players

00:44, Feb 20 2013
Carla Hohepa
GOLD MEDAL SMILE: Waikato winger Carla Hopeha will undergo surgery on her injured leg this week ahead of the 2013 season.

The Waikato should expect its fair share of gold medal around the necks of our women's Sevens side with the Waikato Rugby Union signalling its intention to make their female players a top priority in the run up to the Olympics.

Rugby sevens will make its debut as a sport at the 2016 Games in Rio and the International Rugby Board is also heavily backing the women's game as an integral part of the code's future growth.

To that end the WRU will hold a 'Women in Rugby' forum next week to encourage more girls and women to take up the sport.

The Union has put the call out for all prospective players, coaches, referees, administrators and managers who want to be part of women's rugby in the region to attend.

WRU community engagement manager Bill Heslop said there had been a surge in interest in the women's game after a successful 2012 season, which included a finals berth at the national Sevens in Queenstown.

''Women's rugby in the Waikato  has come a long way in the past 12 months,'' he said.

"The Waikato team returned to the national championship last year for the first time since 2006 and just missed out on a spot in the final, while our women's sevens team were beaten finalists at the national tournament."

Waikato currently has two women's club teams - Waikato University sides that play in the Auckland competition - but numbers are steadily growing.

"There is a lot of talented young women players coming through in the Waikato and this bodes well for the future," Heslop said.

"The goal now is to build player and volunteer numbers further with the view to potentially running our own competition."

Waikato and Black Fern winger Carla Hohepa said the forum was ''a great step forward'' in getting women's rugby on the radar.

''I guess you have to look at it a lot  more seriously now it is an Olympic sport,'' she said.

''And hey, if that is the reason, then I am all for it.

''There is nothing like the lure of winning a gold medal for your country to draw more girls and women to the sport.''

The initiative comes after Sevens legend Eric Rush was critical of the WRU's handling of the Sevens tournament.

The WRU had not included their women's team in their last budget, a move Rush described as ''not a good look''.

To register interest in the forum email nicolam@mooloo.co.nz or phone 021 704 944.