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Winds of change suiting Australia

(Image: Kate Porter and her team at a recent 7s compeition in Darwin)

Australia women's rugby player Kate Porter writes about what's been happening in the game Down Under since the Wallaroos finished third at the Women's Rugby World Cup.

By Kate Porter

Womens rugby in Australia has been taken to the mechanics for a good service since the World Cup 2010.

The team hasnt been out in the streets gloating about our nice shiny third placed wheels - it has been taken back to the drawing board for a make-over. The surface looks still but the undercurrent is strong. The result, I anticipate, will be magnificent.

Australian Womens Rugby in its current form as a 15s sport is a difficult product to manage. The sheer number of women needed to make a competitive team is twice that of the more popular game of Netball, Touch Football or even Volleyball.

The competition in Australia has fared well over the years, maintaining a consistent leagies iin its major cities of Brisbane, Sydney, Perth and Canberra, and even an ad-hoc competition in Darwin, Melbourne and country NSW, however the swing of the sport seems to be leaning towards rugby in the 7s format.

The past few months has demonstrated this.In Australia Rugby 15s is played April through to July or August. Most competitions have about 10 games per season, culminating with the National Tournament being played over four days. During the warmer months, October through to February, we see the 7s format being played. In recent years this format has increased in popularity and number of competitions. Since the World Cup, 7s has been the main focus of most rugby girls and it has resulted with some very exciting developments.

While I was in the UK I received a very interesting offer from a very cool bespoke clothing company that had recently started branching out in Australia. This clothing company is UK based and probably known to most rugby players, especially for its loud, attractive and colourful uniforms. Samurai propositioned me with a deal too good to knock back. If I put together a team for the upcoming Gold Coast 7s competition, theyd look after us. Look after us they did.

I took full advantage of the company I was keeping within the Wallaroos Camp and asked Alex Hargreaves, Cheryl Soon, Nicole Beck, Cobie-Jane Morgan, Debby Hodgkinson, Kristy Giteau and Ili Batibasaga if theyd be interested in playing. The response was almost perfect. Debs had knee surgery scheduled, so she was out.

The weekend of 13 14 November saw something happen for womens rugby here that had never happened before - we were treated exactly the same as a mens team. We played under the ULR Samurai name, as did the Mens ULR Samurai team. The girls had their flights paid for, their accommodation paid for, all team kit supplied and were even blown away with a pair of Mizuno boots. This was exciting stuff. With the womens playing under the already established Samurai name, we were propelled into the media spotlight. The pressure was on us to win the comp.

Within the 7s circuit in Australia there is a women's team that has been doing the rounds for a couple of years now. Eastsyde is a mix of Brisbane locals and NZ imports, with several Wallaroos headlining the team. Shannon Parry and Cheyenne Campbell have participated in the Eastsyde team since its beginning and this team always provided tough competition. Fortunately for the Samurai team, we came out on top with a tough grand final watched by thousands of excited spectators.

January 22 23 saw Darwin Hottest 7s being played with a record number of Mens and Womens teams. Personally I think they should change the name to Wettest 7s. For most of the weekend I needed a snorkel and flippers to play.

The team was not as star studded as the Gold Coast team, however did not lack the enthusiasm. We used three local Darwin girls who impressed with their skills and adaption to the team, as well as a girl from my local club team who made up in skill what she lacked in size. We also somehow scored USA 7s player CJ Hildreth who walked away with an Australian accent and vocabulary to match. The final was again against our nemesis, Eastsyde who were as tough and well drilled as they were in the Gold Coast. The result went their way 7 0, with them scoring in the last two minutes.

The weekend on the Gold Coast was the beginning of rugbys makeover in my mind. The ARU have begun to work on the sport behind the scenes and there are big plans.

We can feel it. Late last year the High Performance Unit selected 16 girls to be part of the 7s squad for 2011. There are five or so camps anticipated this year. They are also actively looking for new talent with scouts going to domestic 7s competitions and developing a sustainable relationship with Australian Touch.

The ARU also put forward an application to the Australian Sports Commission on behalf of those 16 girls for an Athlete Support Grant, which was successful. This financial boost to individuals is a surprising yet welcomed development in the Sport. We only wait with anticipation for a programme for the rest of the year. It does mean that 15s unfortunately will be taking a back seat while the 7s programme gets underway.

The summer months are an exciting time for women's rugby in Australia. I walk away with a thirst for more, and a tingling of excitement in my fingers and toes. I know my team mates and other girls have the same feeling. 7s is attracting players from other codes, such as Touch Football, Australian Football League and even had interest from one Australian Netballer Moonia Gerrard, although I am yet to see her in the pitch Moonia youre welcome to play for my team if you want, FB me.

There is room for growth and a marketable product in 7s, all it needs is a passionate mechanic and an unveiling party with the women's rugby world invited to the launch.