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Rainier Plateau Junior Rugby to offer girls team
For the past couple of years, Auburn High School freshman Brenna Tinsley watched from the sidelines as her older brother, Cayman, played for the Rainier Plateau Junior Rugby program.
When the opportunity came this fall for Tinsley to take to the pitch, she jumped at the chance. Rainier Plateau is fielding a local girls squad for the first time this season.
“I just saw all his games and practices and thought it would be cool,” she said.
The team, which began introductory practices a couple of weeks ago in Sumner, is open to girls ages 14-18 from Auburn, Sumner, Bonney Lake, Orting and Enumclaw.
According to Rainier Plateau founder Andy Ramsay, who began a boys program in 2008, the time was right for his organization to branch out and offer the sport to girls.
“The other (girls) teams in the league itself were looking for more competition,” Ramsay said. “They were down to six teams and wanted more. And for the program, we’re at a point now where the boys team is solid. We’ve got a lot of good coaches, and we’re financially stable and ready for a girls team.”
The team will play against several Western Washington teams, including the powerhouse Kent Crusaders, one of the top programs in the country and the model for Rainier Plateau’s program, Ramsay said.
According to Ramsay, the female rendition of rugby is a toned-down version of the male game, a full-contact sport combining elements of soccer and football, pitting opposing teams of 15 players against each other as they advance an oval ball down a field roughly 110 yards long by 75 yards wide. Teams score by moving the ball over a line at the end of the field called a try-line and touching it to the ground or by kicking a goal.
Defenders try to stop the offensive team from scoring by tackling the ball carriers, while the offensive team advances the ball by passing, running and kicking. The play is constant, similar to soccer.
The main difference between the boys and girls is the amount of contact, Ramsay said.
“They (girls) move the ball around more, rather than going to contact,” he said. “But I want to make them understand early this isn’t soccer … this isn’t flag football or touch. This is a contact sport.
“It’s hard for me to fathom that I’m going to get these girls to tackle and ruck, which are pretty violent.”
For some girls, like Tinsley and fellow Auburn freshman Naomi Moore, the contact is part of the draw.
“I look forward to the contact,” Tinsley said. “A lot of my friends say I have an aggressive attitude.”
“Most of (my friends) think it’s super dangerous and think that I’m going to get broken,” said Moore, who was introduced to the sport by her sister, Alexis, who plays at the University of Washington. “It’s actually a pretty cool opportunity, though. I’m a big girl, so I can handle (the contact). It’s really only scary if you make it scary. No one is trying to hurt you.”
With 10 girls turning out for the second practice last Sunday, Ramsay says the team has a way to go before it attracts the 20 or more players needed to play the competition.
“I’m very happy with what we’ve gotten so far,” he said. “The girls who have come out know nothing about rugby. But I tell them, ‘You’re going to be the history makers. You’re going to set the standards, traditions, and forge the way for future teams.’ It is really a unique and exciting opportunity for the girls.”
Rainier Plateau offers free, introductory sessions for girls at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday and Nov. 26 at the Daffodil Valley Sports Complex in Sumner. The team begins regular practices in January and games in February.
For more information, visit www.rainierjuniorrugby.com or contact Ramsay by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or 253-330-6816.