The Road to the Malone Tournament: Rock Women in Ireland

The Rock Rugby Women have finally touched down in Belfast, Northern Ireland! Aside from a little jet lag, the team is now fit and looking ahead to its Malone Tournament début on Friday, August 25.

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But it takes more than a five-hour flight and some last-minute packing to get here; in fact, the team’s efforts stretch back 12 months, and cover training, fundraising, logistics, and a never-ending struggle to balance everything to achieve success.

Fundraising is a crucial step and could become a barrier preventing key players from taking part in the tour. The team worked tirelessly to raise money, with a total of ten events over the past 10 months. “We started by getting great flight rates direct to Dublin, then the fundraising started. We sold popcorn, flowers, cookie dough, and Chase the Ace tickets, bagged groceries, served at dinners, held a Rock Concert, and more. One incredibly awesome Mom really stepped up and went to work seeking numerous sponsors. Many of the girls sought summer jobs to make payments,” noted Roxanne Butler, Rock Rugby Head Coach.

These team efforts were extremely successful thus easing the load for many players and ensuring Rock Rugby would be well-represented on the field.

Fitness was a huge part of the team’s preparation as well. With a long lead-up time to the Malone Tournament, numerous prep practices were scheduled. However, even here there were challenges. It was a struggle to put together a full traveling squad practice due to players’ multiple work commitments, injuries, illness, and other issues. With all this and family commitments, there was little time to keep up fitness and rugby training and it was a like a Catch-22 situation – we cannot go without the funds but cannot compete without training. As a coach, this is not at all ideal conditions and I’ll admit it has been quite frustrating at times to show up to a practice when half the team cannot make it,” Roxanne said.

However, the team was lucky to be able to count on Chris Pickard. With his track and field experience, Chris volunteered to lead weekly fitness sessions soon dubbed “ChrisFit” events. The team also organized boot-camp style strength and conditioning sessions over the past 8 months, as well as rugby-specific skill practices twice a week. 

Despite their struggles to fit everything into their schedules, team members were enthusiastic about training for the tournament. “Because Newfoundland is an island and it is expensive for outside teams to come here, we knew we had to train extra hard for our trip to Ireland, a country where rugby is so popular. We trained at a higher level of intensity and focus in order to have a good showing for our province,” said Cassie Kennedy, a senior back player.  Mya Staubitzer, who also plays a back position on the under-18 team added “Training for Ireland has been different than our usual training in many ways. Not only is it a whole new level of competition for many of us being that it is international, it is also a 10s tournament which means we had to adjust our training accordingly and make room for extra fitness.”

Now that the team has finally arrived, Roxanne looks forward to having a full squad onsite and has booked two practice sessions prior to the start of the Tournament. With so much preparation and lead time, the women are now excited to finally get their Irish tour underway!

Story by Mady Virgona

Graham Cook