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Bigger squad key to success

Try time: Kelli Nusum breaks a tackle during the NACRA 7s tournament in Mexico City

Andy Crichton, the Bermuda women’s coach, believes that building on the back of a successful 2014 is essential if the women’s game is to survive on the Island.

Crichton wants to make sure the momentum the programme has built up over the past couple of years is not lost through a lack of players or funding.

Being professional “in everything we do, but on an amateur budget” is the aim for Crichton and his team, who are holding open training sessions this month in a bid to attract new members to the squad.

“We don’t want to take a step back on anything, we want to move things forward. To compete against professional sides is always going to be difficult, but we have positioned ourselves so that now we are already competing against the Caribbean islands, the next step is to get up to [the next level].

“We have been able to beat Jamaica, I won’t say consistently but it’s two out of three, which is a great result. Trinidad and Cayman are who we need to be aiming for in the region. It’s progression in everything we try and do, professionalism in everything we try and do, on an amateur budget.”

Sustainability, or the “numbers game” as Crichton calls it is the key for the women’s programme in Bermuda.

Crichton is open about the struggles the team faces in getting players — they had ten for the NACRA Sevens tournament in Mexico where they finished fourth. Increasing the exposure of the game in the schools is helping, but there is still a gap between the senior team and the junior programmes.

In a bid to bridge that divide there will be a group training session for under-13s to under-17s starting at the National Sports Centre on Sunday. Girls who are under-13 can still play with the boys, after that they have been left in limbo in the past, too old for the boys’ teams, too young to train with the seniors.

Kelli Nusum, a member of the national team, has been instrumental in getting girls to play the game and is driven by the desire to create a base from which the women’s game on the Island can flourish.

She also points to the benefits that come from playing the game, highlighting the confidence it has given her since she began playing as a 19-year-old at Newcastle University.

“For me, it was really important it changed my life,” Nusum said. “My whole family is football and I never would have thought of myself as a rugby player, but it has been really important for me for the last ten years. It gives you that confidence to do other things.”

That confidence is just part of what rugby has given Nusum, and only part of what she wants girls on the Island to have a chance of experience. The women’s game is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States and scholarships are available for those that are good enough.

“We have a lot of athletes in Bermuda and there is a lot of [rugby] scholarship money in the US, and I want our girls to be able to compete for those.” Nusum said.

Her interest is not entirely altruistic, there is necessity too. With sevens rugby becoming an Olympic sport, a Bermuda team must be all-Bermudian in order to compete at NACRA events in the future.

There is also a team of girls coming down from The Harvey School in New York in March and Nusum wants to have enough players for a mini-tournament. I’ll take as many girls as I can get, anyone and everyone that wants to come along and give it a try is welcome,” she said. Junior rugby starts on Sunday and runs from 11am-1pm at the NSC.

Bermuda women’s team train Monday and Wednesday evenings at Somersfield Academy at 6pm For more information e-mail girlsrugbybda@gmail.com