New Women’s Rugby Team to Debut in Mobile

(MOBILE, AL) While many local women are toning up in anticipation of swimsuit season, others are cranking their workouts up a notch in response to a much different kind of pressure: rugby’s upcoming “sevens” season.

“Things are about to get pretty intense,” said Chief Petty Officer Mike Hering, head coach of Mobile’s newly-formed women’s rugby team. “The rugby calendar doesn’t have a true off-season, so we work hard all year long, but when we shift from 15-on-15 rugby to just seven players covering the same amount of territory, it can definitely be a wake-up call for some folks.”

Until a few weeks ago, Spring Hill College had the only women’s rugby program in the Mobile area. Now the opportunity to play full-contact rugby is available to local women of all ages – including those who attend colleges that don’t offer the notoriously rough-and-tumble sport, which has taken a 94-year hiatus from the Olympics, but will be reintroduced at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro games.

Justin Goonan, head coach of Spring Hill’s men’s and women’s rugby teams says he couldn’t be happier to see a local women’s rugby club coming together in Mobile. Spring Hill’s men’s team plays schools like South Alabama and Troy in regular conference play, but the Lady Badgers have struggled to find opponents in the region.

Battleship Memorial Park
Battleship Memorial Park

“Finally having local competition will really help strengthen our women’s program,” said Goonan. “Plus, it’s great to know that, male or female, Spring Hill students who want to stay in Mobile will have someplace to keep playing after they graduate.”

The fledgling women’s team will function as a sister squad for Battleship Rugby, the local men’s team that has called Battleship Memorial Park home since the late 1970s. As Hon. Secretary Ben Hoeb explained,“Battleship Rugby has always had the mission to ensure the furtherance and development of rugby in the community by increasing awareness of and participation in the sport. We are delighted to support the formation of the Battleship Women’s Rugby Club.”

The Battleship Women’s Rugby initiative has also received a warm welcome from the Mobile Area Rugby Foundation, which helps elementary and middle schools establish non-contact “Rookie Rugby” programs and recently launched a full-contact team for high school boys.

“While women’s rugby is making significant gains nationally, our area is underrepresented in the regional community,” said Robert Corley, the foundation’s executive director. “Having a local, competitive club provides a new Olympic-pathway for female athletes and demonstrates rugby’s greatest benefits: fitness and inclusion.”

The new women’s team will make its competitive debut at the Abita Seersucker Sevens tournament at Battleship Memorial Park on May 9th. For Coach Hering, the tournament will be something of a homecoming; on top of being a USA Rugby Level 200 certified coach and Deep South Rugby referee, Hering still plays for Battleship’s “Old Boys” team.

Hering says that almost half of the Battleship ladies are brand new to rugby and still far from being ready to face off against established women’s teams like Tulane University and the New Orleans Halfmoons, but giving the team’s rookies real playing time is the best way to give them a true feel for the game.

Battleship Women’s Rugby also has a long way to go from an administrative standpoint. They have launched a “Name Our Team” contest to enlist the public’s help drumming up suggestions for a team nickname or mascot. The funds raised will help offset startup costs like registering the team with USA Rugby and buying uniforms. The winner of the contest will receive half the funds raised. Click HERE for more information on the “Name Our Team” contest.

For more information on how you can get involved with Battleship Women’s Rugby, please visit http://www.becauseportfolio.com/battleship-womens-rugby.

(courtesy of Elyse Goonan)