Cayman women’s rugby seven-a-side squad is in another exciting tournament this weekend, this time in Tobago.
Following their success at the recent North America Caribbean Rugby Association 7s tournament at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex – which took many by surprise – the women have qualified for some prestigious tournaments.
First up, they head for the Tobago 7s in Crown Point, Tobago, in a tournament that has some of the region’s best women’s teams competing, with the likes of Canada, Scotland, Mexico, Guyana and hosts Trinidad and Tobago among the 16 sides competing.
By doing so well at the NACRA 7s when they came fourth, Cayman qualified for the CACSO games, too, in November in Veracruz, Mexico.
This is a far cry from 12 months ago when the Cayman women failed to score a try, much less winning a game in the NACRA 7s in Ottawa, Canada.
They have made an amazing improvement in the year since, thanks to some innovative recruitment.
Coach James Buckley said, “We needed to sit down and evaluate the entire program and look at ways to really develop it. With sevens rugby now an Olympic sport and with the qualification criteria different, we needed to put a plan together for long-term success.
“We started out in the summer running some rugby boot camps that reached out to women that wanted to try rugby, but who maybe had no experience and were hesitant to come down and try it out before.
“The camps were open to all women who wanted to try rugby and the take up was really good. We got some crossover from other sports like soccer and flag football, and the girls have really taken to rugby.”
Those new recruits include football pro Shanel Gall and Tracey Seymour, who has made a name for herself in boxing and more recently in flag. Both played exceptionally well at the NACRA 7s and Gall is on this trip.
Buckley said, “The commitment to training has been impressive, too, and the new girls have really picked up the basic skills needed and some have made an instant impact in the women’s national team.”
Cayman has a tough draw for the Tobago 7s, against Canada’s top women’s club side, The Dog River Howlers, the host nation and Venezuela.
However, Buckley and team manager Mark Woollard are confident. “We have nothing to fear. During the NACRA 7s, we improved game on game and grew as the tournament progressed,” Woollard said.
“I fully expect that growth to continue, and I think we could surprise one or two people. The squad are certainly very much looking forward to it.”
Captained by Joanne Ziegler, the squad includes seven Caymanians and five ex-pats. This tournament allows ex-pats to play, which helps bring along the Caymanians because the expats are far more experienced. Becky Sundell is a Swedish international and Australian Biannca Johnson has a wealth of experience.
SQUAD: Mark Woollard (manager), James Buckley (coach), Dave Robinson (asst coach), Joanne Ziegler (captain), Lisa Kehoe, Becky Sundell, Larissa Johnson, Shenel Gall, Rhian Minty, Chynae Samuels, Marline Williams, Jodie McTaggart, Vicki Piaso, Jenna Richards, Biannca Johnson.