The inaugural Halloween Women’s 7s tournament was a resounding success for Cayman, but the fact that star player Shenel Gall limped off after only 30 seconds of the first game was a blow.
Cayman goes to the Central American and Caribbean Games in Veracruz, Mexico, at the end of this month, so Gall’s pulling out early against Mexico at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex last Friday was a worrying sight.
Initial fears were that she had snapped a medial crucial ligament in her knee, but thankfully it was only a sprain and she is undergoing intensive physiotherapy with Al Bartice.
The 23-year-old Caymanian is best known for being Cayman’s first pro footballer. She played in Switzerland for a while and returned last year before taking up rugby earlier this year.
Gall made such an impact that within a few months she was voted Women’s Player of the Year.
Mark Woollard, manager of the women’s squad, said he fully expects Gall to make the trip.
Woollard was the chief organizer of this tournament, created to help Cayman’s national squad and the Cayman Select team gain some invaluable international experience.
Mexico sent their national side to Cayman and the other teams were Dallas Harlequins and a select team from Scotland, Rugby Ecosse, who won it.
Woollard said since this was the first tournament of its kind, he was not sure how well it would go. But judging from the visitors’ feedback, they enjoyed everything about it, despite everything having been done “on a skeleton budget.”
He added, “The Cayman girls did a great job in showing the visitors a good time. The Dallas girls especially said they loved it, and the Scottish girls, some of whom are professionals, said that they have played all over the world and this was as well organized as many places they’ve been to.”
He added that the Mexican women have a sizeable budget and may return in April with the men’s 15s who will play Cayman in Big Game 5.
“The Mexican women are able to go to more international competitions than others, and they too praised us,” Woollard said. “We may pull in another team, maybe from Florida, to have a mini women’s sevens competition in between the men’s game.”
Cayman captain Cassianne Lawrence thoroughly enjoyed playing host.
“Overall, I think the tournament went very well given the fact that we have only been training together consistently for two months and the other teams have been together for years,” she said.
“The great thing about experiencing teams of such high caliber is it highlights for us where we need to improve and at this point, there is massive room for improvement.”
She added that they need to train harder and are willing to do so.
For Lawrence, the highlight was beating Dallas Harlequins convincingly after losing to them in previous encounters.
“It just shows how much we have improved and how far we have come as a team,” she said.
“We are hoping that this tournament grows not only in terms of teams coming out, but in supporters as well.
“Female sports tend to get put on the back burner, but people need to watch out because we are coming.”
Rugby Ecosse captain Linda Franssena said that all went well for the Scottish players.
“A few more teams would have upped the level of competition, but overall the tournament was a success for us,” she said.
“The Halloween Vampires Ball after winning the final was a great highlight for us.”
Franssena said that the “organization was top class, weather was great and the people were all extremely friendly.”
She added, “Our sponsor Dennis Hunter of Queensgate Bank also looked after us in grand style at Guy Harvey’s restaurant the day after the tournament.”
Franssena said she hopes to attend the Halloween 7s on Oct. 30 next year. “It will depend on how much rum Dennis has had,” she joked.
Mexican captain Rosa Rivera said the tournament was a great experience.
“We try to achieve our goals in every game, and the best of all is that we had fun as a team,” she said.
“The best part of the tournament was that we had the opportunity to play against Cayman, our contenders in our next two tournaments, and team Rugby Ecosse, a team well recognized for their speed and strength.” Rugby Ecosse beat Mexico in the final.
Rivera added, “We enjoyed it all, and this time we had the opportunity to go to Dolphin Discovery. We would love to be back at the Halloween 7s next year and see more participation from other teams as well. Gracias!”