They really found their touch

The Cayman Islands women’s rugby squad is used to having the odds stacked against them.

Women’s contact rugby is very much in its developmental stages and the population of adult women in the Cayman Islands who are prepared to rise to the physical challenge of playing full contact rugby is still pretty small, which isn’t surprising for a sport that involves tackling, endurance and strength, as well as speed and ball handling skills.

Rugby in its traditional 15s format requires a squad of 22 players. Numbers for the women’s training sessions have peaked at 30, and not all of these women are eligible to represent the Cayman Islands at international competition.

The big challenge going into 2010 was for the women to be able to field teams for both the NACRA Rugby Sevens in Guyana in July (three day tournament) and the NACRA Rugby 15s in Bahamas in August in a week long tournament.

The level of commitment required from the women in terms of training, and taking time away from work and family is huge and added to this the added complications of some of the younger women being away at college, a few struggling with injuries and two of the girls expecting babies!

For a while it was not certain that Cayman would even be able to field teams in both competitions. But the fairer sex are known for their resilience and the women committed themselves to juggle their personal schedules so that they could attend training and work on their individual fitness and a number of employers kindly came through to support the squad by granting additional leave of absence from work so that both tournaments could be attended.

For the first five months of last year, coaching was led by Jason Scarff and Phillip Fourie and then in June Caroline Deegan (ex-captain of the national women’s squad) took on the role of head coach, supported by the director of rugby, Richard ‘Grizz’ Adams and coach Seviri Tabunawari.

Rugby sevens requires great speed as well as strength and technical skills. The tournament in Guyana was attended by Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, Mexico and St Lucia all of whom fielded teams with great ability. The Cayman women worked hard in defence but, despite a brave showing, they could not match their Caribbean rivals and returned home without a victory.

The women’s Rugby 15s Caribbean Championships was hosted by the Bahamas, with warm up games against the USA U20s and Canada U20s. The Cayman women were on a steep learning curve with games against such powerful, young, well drilled teams, but the intense preparation proved beneficial as Cayman upped their game to meet Bahamas with a resounding victory in the final to win 48-0 and making history by becoming Caribbean Champions for the first time.

Deegan said: “Whilst rugby is very much a team sport, with all players on the squad playing a vital role, particular mention must be made of the newest members of the team – Sarah Hale, Janice Gordon, Denise Moore and Claire Hughes – who rose to the challenge on their international debuts, Lisa Bird who made a late return to play in the final after a serious injury and then scored several tries, Lolita Hanna moved into the centre position proving far to strong for the opposition running in several tries.”

Katy Bayles and Joanne Zeigler returned from overseas in order to represent Cayman and Deegan who came out of retirement for the final game.

The women completed their playing year with the retirement of Rowena Lawrence as captain, having provided dedicated leadership for the past two years, and the appointment of Joanne Woods as her successor.

New players are always welcome as the squad prepares for both sevens and fifteens tournaments in 2011. Contact Caroline [email protected] for details. 2011 training is due to start Monday January 10th 2011.