A full fixture of summer rugby has been blighted by the rainy weather and the passing of Hurricane Dean. Thankfully, sunny climes are here again and with that Cayman’s teams are getting back to full fitness for forthcoming events.
David Mays, rugby’s community development coach, is optimistic. ‘The focus for us in the next few weeks for Cayman rugby is to get the girls Under-19s team up and running,’ he says at the rugby club in South Sound. ‘I’ve been to all four high schools this week to meet the grade 10, 11, and 12 girls to introduce myself, talk about rugby and let them know that on Monday (1 October) 3.30pm, here at the club we’ll begin our plans on U-19s rugby.
‘Meetings I’ve had so far have been encouraging. I’m hoping to get a total of 60 girls interested so that we can have games against each other and practice as a large group. It can create, automatically, high school teams for each region. Then we can have four high school teams playing against each other.
‘Not only will it improve their skill and everything, but it will expand the game and become a very good feeder stream to the Cayman women’s team. So we’re looking already to develop the junior level of rugby so that they can step up to the senior level.
‘The focus point is to get them up and running now and establish school teams before Christmas to play against each other. That’s St Ignatius, Cayman Prep and High, John Gray and Triple C and then we can work down here on a Monday collectively as a group and then the teachers can work within the school structure. Then in the new year we can all work together in specialising them as a national side.
‘Gill Comins (St Ignatius) is helping, Sharon Whitmore (John Gray), Vance South (Triple C) and Danny Porter (Prep) are working with me. We’ve been approached by quite a few high schools in the USA and Canada expressing an interest in playing girls rugby. They want to come out during spring break in March. We’ve got about five schools interested so that’s why I want to get it up and running so soon so that if I can guarantee them games I can promote it more. So we’re going to have a sort of West Indies-North America little uniting championship next spring.
‘The next big step is the Caribbean championships for the U-19 girls. It’s great to hear that the organizers are going to try to finally pull it off for next year. We haven’t been given a date or a location yet but we’re hoping from the feedback we’re getting that there’s going to be six Caribbean teams.’
Cayman has 25 women in the programme and with the projected aim of 40 senior players by the start of 2008 he feels they are becoming one of the fastest growing women’s sports in Cayman.
Mays, a former Canada national coach and current West Indies Men’s Sevens coach, is active in the community. He is alsoheavily involved with primary school development of women’s rugby.
Mays expects the women’s team to do well in their next competition. ‘In the women’s rugby, we’ve got the Bahamas Sevens coming up in November. We’ve been focusing on 15s lately because we prepared for the Caribbean championships – cancelled here because of Hurricane Dean. The girls were a bit disappointed and deflated so we organised a three-way round robin championship playing a men’s 15.
‘We give restrictions to the men on what they can and can’t do. The women can tackle as hard as they like but the men can only tackle below the waist, no grab tackles and hit tackles. We’re restricting the contact area on how they get bashed up a bit but everything else is legitimately pretty much the same. In the two games the guys have won both by three tries to two. I’m hoping the girls will come back next week and sneak a win. The guys take it seriously enough so that the girls get a structured game.’
The men are in regaining fitness after an extended break too. ‘They start preparing next week for the Caribbean championships in the Bahamas. It gives them seven weeks to prepare. They have a full pool of countries. Barbados are the only team not coming which surprised me but I believe it’s down to funding, they just couldn’t stretch their budget. For the men there’ll be Trinidad and Tobago, Bermuda, Bahamas, St Lucia, Guyana and Jamaica. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mexico are there too.
And in the women’s there likely to be Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Bahamas, plus us. The following year for the women there’s a World Cup qualifying tournament. For the Cayman women who are so new to it, we want to make sure that we get a taste for it this year so that next year when we go back to the Caribbean championships we have a good shot of winning it then go to the World Cup the following year. So it’s a great opportunity for them and gives them a good focus.’
* Current training sessions with the national women’s programmes are: U-19s players are welcome to attend on Mondays @ South Sound Rd 5.30pm to 7pm and Wednesdays @ St Ignatius School 5.30pm to 7pm