Since the Teachers West women’s rugby team shared the inaugural TDRU premiership with University there has been a stop-start history to women’s rugby within the Club
Since the Teachers West women’s rugby team shared the inaugural TDRU premiership with University there has been a stop-start history to women’s rugby within the Club. Despite far too many seasons where no formal TDRU women’s competition was played, this group of past and present rugby players have enjoyed premiership and representative success over the ensuing years.
Women’s rugby first came to Teachers West in the early 2000s when the TDRU decided to include women’s rugby into its senior competition. This initial team showed true grit to win the minor premiership in 2003. They jointly won the inaugural premiership with University the same year.
Not satisfied with sharing the trophy, this playing group bettered the result the following year winning both the minor premiership and claiming the 2004 premiership crown. The TDRU women’s competition continued in 2005 with strong showings from Teachers West. There is some confusion around the premiership results. Many believe Teachers West made it a back to back clean sweep.
Due to a decline in player numbers the decision was made by the TDRU not to contest the 2006 season.
The dominance shown by Teachers West women’s team during its infancy within the Club was not just by those on the pitch. It can also be attributed to the inspirational and dedicated coaching staff. From the outset, the women’s team was guided by Barry Dermody, Michael White and Kim Emery who all passed the mantle in those early years. This leadership and knowledge has continued with the most recent coaching staff of Jen Campbell and Craig Fahey sharing the duties since the reintroduction of women’s rugby to the TDRU in 2013.
This backbone of coaching knowledge has resulted in a number of Teachers West women players advancing to various representative levels. After initial selection as Townsville Brolgas or North Queensland representatives, many women have gone on to more elite levels over the years. In the true fashion of most Bulldogs who don the jersey, both past and present, the women’s players are no different and are often reticent to discuss individual accolades above those of the team. Because it is not widely popularised, many Bulldogs would be amazed to learn that their Club has not one, but three Australian representatives from its ranks.
It is widely known about Peter Grigg’s polished and powerful finishing on the wing for the Wallabies. His crushing defence left many international players wondering what hit them. But he is not the only Australian player who was proud to play club rugby in the maroon and teal strip. Emily Sapwell and Kristy Bolton have also been selected to play rugby for Australia.
A fitness instructor with the RAAF, Emily was always physically prepared to play. After selection in 2004 for the Wallaroos, Emily also won the Teachers West prestigious Player of the Year award the same year.
She was also a person who displayed great personal courage, both on and off the field. This was evidenced in 2008 at Queenscliffe in Victoria. While on leave from the Australian Defence Force Academy, Emily braved rough surf to swim 200 metres out to sea to rescue a fisherman trapped in a capsized boat. She said in a later interview that her Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET) undertaken while she was in Townsville made the situation a lot easier to handle.
Kristy Bolton was also selected to represent Australia with the Wallaroos. After dominant performances on the wing at the National Championships in 2005, Kristy was rewarded with selection in the Wallaroos squad until injury ruled her out for the 2006 World Cup in Canada. Despite the setback and no local competition, Kristy’s passion for the game never waned. Through a weekly commute to Brisbane, she continued playing in the Queensland Premier Rugby competition with the successful University of Queensland’s women’s side until hanging up the boots to raise her family. Kristy returned from her self-imposed retirement to Teachers West in the reintroduced TDRU competition. At the end of 2015 she was looking forward to being an integral part of the squad vying for the 2016 premiership.
Women’s rugby in Townsville is moving from strength to strength. Since the revival of the TDRU women’s competition in 2013, growth has seen the expansion from three teams to six. Teachers West have contested each and every season and always fields a competitive team come finals. This extended competition often results in scheduling that has many of their games relegated to time slots and pitches not reserved for marquee clashes. Women’s rugby players could be forgiven for losing interest in the game. The evidence though is to the contrary, and Teachers West women’s rugby is going strong. They continue to turn up, continue to build and with this season’s results – continue to win.
It can only be hoped that with the higher profile of women’s rugby in the public domain this situation may be rectified. With the TDRU developing a girl’s junior competition, success of the Australian Women’s Sevens team and the increasing interest in the fifteen-person form of the game with the Wallaroos the future for women’s rugby looks promising.
One thing is certain, the incumbent playing group are continuing the proud traditions of women’s rugby within Teachers West. Continuing on the path paved by the boots of those before them they continue to prove that if there is a rugby competition – there will be Bulldog’s women, or the Bitches as they are affectionately known eager for the fray.
A great deal of this information about Teachers West women’s rugby was provided by Kristy Bolton. Kristy is a true hero of Teachers West both on and off the field. Olivia Anderson The 2015 Teachers West Club Person of the Year assisted Kristy.