The newly launched Women’s 7s League is attracting plenty of Caymanians to rugby, which is good for the game’s future because the intention is to qualify for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
There are only three seven-a-side women’s club teams but they are equally matched so theoretically everyone improves. That was reflected in Saturday’s first round of games at the South Sound club when each team recorded a win and a loss against each other.
Shenel Gall is captain of the OMNI Sharks, the mostly Caymanian side. The other teams, Kirk Freeport All Diamonds and John Doak Architecture Lady Iguanas, have a mix of Caymanians and ex-pats.
The Sharks includes newbies Chrishanna Trowers, Cassianne Lawrence, Jenna Richards, Chynae Samuels, Tracey Seymour and Avisa Tahal, all of whom are picking up the nuances of the game rapidly.
Jodie McTaggart captains the All Diamonds and national team captain Joanne Ziegler is the Iguanas skipper.
Gall is a former pro footballer who still plays for the national side and Future Sports Club. She juggles her busy sports schedule with working at Cayman Helicopters and the George Town Yacht Club as well as studying part-time.
An exhaustive itinerary but Gall, 22, loves a busy life. A novice to rugby, she made her debut at the NACRA sevens only last November where Cayman surprised even themselves and came fourth in the tournament at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex.
Gall’s brilliance in football transferred seamlessly into rugby, scoring a couple of tries in the NACRA games. She notched two more on Saturday, smiling all the way to the try line in the process.
“I’m taking the time to learn rugby and enjoy watching it on TV to get more a grasp,” she said. “I really like it. It’s completely different to football in terms of physical demands and even though sevens is only 14 minutes compared to football’s 90, it is far more tiring.”
The national women’s team competes at a sevens tournament at the end of April against teams from across the South Western US in the Texas 7s. They expect tough competition, but the domestic league should hold them in good stead.
New recruits like the exceptionally talented basketball star Cassianne Lawrence put her 6ft-plus height to good use with some searing runs. As her experience grows she will be a key player in the sevens side.
James Buckley, national team coach, was impressed with the quality of rugby on display on Saturday. “The girls have had quite a long break, and haven’t played any rugby since well before Christmas, so there was bound to be some rustiness and a few more handling errors than you would normally expect,” he said. “But I was pleased with how all three teams played, and some of the new girls who stepped in and put in good performances on their debuts.”
Gall is relishing the Texas tournament and in the meantime anticipates more locals taking up rugby. “A lot of girls are coming out and playing and enjoying it,” she said. “By November when we play in big tournaments we will have improved a lot more.”
She fully expects Cayman to qualify for the Olympics. “Anything is possible,” Gall said. “Before NACRA we had never played together before and look what we achieved after only about six weeks training.
“We can do this if everyone’s on the same page. We have fantastic coaches and our duty is to take it all in and turn it around.”