Secondary school girls’ rugby is on the rise in Waitaki.
This season, there are more than 50 girls registered across the St Taki under-18 and under-15 teams. The teams include both St Kevin’s College and Waitaki Girls’ High School pupils.
Last year, the St Taki under-18 team went undefeated to win the South Canterbury under-18 competition.
St Taki under-18 coach Josh Phipps believed it was the team’s success, and the North Otago Rugby union hosting skills sessions in schools, that was helping boost the numbers.
Just 30 girls were registered last season and Phipps was rapt to see more involved in 2022.
‘‘The biggest thing for me is we’ve tried to work really hard on the girls’ game over the summer. The whole game in Oamaru with girls’ rugby is growing massively, which is awesome to see,’’ Phipps said.
‘‘I think the greatest thing for me personally is to see with our under-18s, we’ve got a real big group of girls who have never played before but they’re just throwing themselves into it and they’re real keen to learn and get better at it.’’
The under-18s, who are also coached by Colleen Carroll and John Hanning, have started fresh, after losing 10 players from last year’s team. But the new team has gelled well, producing four straight wins to start the season.
It beat Geraldine 32-14, Roncalli College 49-19 , Mid Canterbury combined 68-27, and held on last week to beat Craighead Diocesan 22-20.
‘‘They started with a real bang and got some good scores but last [week] was real nice to see they had kind of the grit and determination to stick at it.’’
There was a core group of younger players from last year’s team who had stepped up to lead this year. While there was always room for improvement, the team was starting to click, he said.
‘‘I think the good thing for the girls is starting well and realising their potential.
‘‘The more that they realise what they can do themselves the better. I think that’s been the pleasing thing to see . .. is when they do something right, they score a try, or whatever it is, they can kind of progress and do it again, and do it better.’’
The under-15s got off to a good start, beating Geraldine 67-15 and Roncalli 54-22, but lost their last two games against Mid Canterbury combined 36-30, and Craighead 73-7.
Former St Taki player and Waitaki Girls’ year 13 pupil Lilian Tepper (17) is coaching the side this year, while Waitaki Girls’ teacher Amy Hunter helps oversee the team.
It was great seeing the girls wanting to get involved in other areas of rugby, Phipps said.
‘‘We were trying to figure out who was going to take the under-15s this year, and to give credit to Lilian, she stepped up and said she would give it a crack, and she’s done really well — she’s been really impressive.’’