Girls make rugby history
Crowds of students, friends and family members gathered last week to cheer on the teenage players taking part in Bermuda’s first girls’ high school rugby game.
A team from CedarBridge Academy took on a squad from Berkeley Institute in the exciting ten-a-side match at the National Sports Centre’s North Field on Wednesday.
The fledgling players, some of whom have been training for only a few weeks, showed a great deal of skill and promise and were not afraid to get stuck into a tackle or ruck during the 30-minute game.
CedarBridge Academy, playing in pink, emerged victorious, scoring five tries to win 25-7.
The team’s captain, Jiqena Furqan, 17, said: “I’m excited and proud to play in the first girls’ high school game.”
Keonte White, 15, of Berkeley Institute, who has been playing since January, said: “It was hard but fun. I felt proud to play in the first girls’ game.”
Among the many cheering fans was CedarBridge Academy’s principal Kalmar Richards, who was on the sidelines proudly waving a school flag.
“They are an amazing group of students and are outstanding,” she said. “It’s really exciting that we have a girls’ rugby team. Our girls are excited about playing rugby.
“Many of the girls are dual enrolment at Bermuda College and honour roll students.”
The atmosphere at the field was upbeat as crowds of students, family members and encouraging residents showed their support for the girls.
Ecstatic cheers filled the air after every try and close call, with yells of encouragement coming thick and fast. Proud parents looked on with beaming smiles, while classmates roared their approval.
The women behind the successful event are Bermudian coaches Kelli Nusum, who also plays for the island’s adult women’s team, and Akinyi Apopa, who also coaches the Whitney Institute’s middle school boys’ team.
“I’m so excited and so proud,” Ms Nusum said. “The girls are all between 14 and 18 and we started the high school training in November.
“They all did much better than I expected. They stayed positive even after the other team scored and they kept playing really hard. They are skilful and all of them have good hands [when passing and catching the ball]. Some of them play netball and that helps.
“We now have 28 girls training, which has grown from only 13 in March 2015 and just two in 2014. Most of our players are from CedarBridge Academy and Berkeley Institute, which are both Beyond Rugby schools and we hope to one day incorporate the girls into that programme.
“We also have a player from each of Bermuda High School, Warwick Academy, Mount St Agnes and Bermuda College.
“We are aiming to complete the pathway from Under-6 to adult rugby that has not existed in the past, and this is a huge step in the right direction.
“Some people may find it strange that girls enjoy tackling each other. Life presents young people, male or female, with many challenges. Rugby provides a productive way for players to physically work through any frustration they may be feeling.
“Aside from the sports side of things, playing rugby builds camaraderie and the girls are hanging out with girls they didn’t know before — some of the girls didn’t know each other’s names but were in the same class.
“We are trying to build the programme around the core values of rugby, helping to develop well-rounded young women as well as good rugby players.
“We would like to thank our sponsors BCB and DHL for our kit this year and Ariel Re for incorporating us into the high school league.
“We are looking forward to show our growth over the remaining games this season.”
Ms Nusum trains the girls three times a week and welcomes anyone who wants to play. For more information on youth rugby, e-mail the Bermuda Rugby Union’s youth development officer, Patrick Calow, at firstname.lastname@example.org
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