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Ladies team revived at Sudbury Rugby Club with as Sudbury Sapphires

For the first time in more than 16 years, Sudbury will be fielding a ladies team in the upcoming campaign, writes Ken Watkins.

Building on a successful and long-running girls’ programme, the Sudbury Sapphires are all set to take to the field when the 2021/22 rugby season gets under way.

The club last had a ladies team in 2005, and more than 30 players have registered an interest in joining the new team, with 18 having come through from the girls’ programme of the last three seasons.

Sudbury Rugby Club are relaunching a Ladies' team, to be called Sudbury Sapphires - a nucleus of a team is already in training
Sudbury Rugby Club are relaunching a Ladies' team, to be called Sudbury Sapphires - a nucleus of a team is already in training

Sapphires coach Mark Rogers, who is also in charge of the Sudbury Under-18 Girls, said: “It has been something of a project of mine for the last few years, since I got involved with the girls. We’ve tried in the past, and it’s not been successful.

“But we’ve had quite a few of our under-18s come up to enable us to form almost a backbone of a ladies side – otherwise we are losing these players.”

In the recent past, U18s who moved up to ladies’ level had to look elsewhere to continue playing. “We’ve had girls playing first team at university, at Stortford, at Bury (St Edmunds), all over the place, who have come through. It’s a shame to lose them. So this is an opportunity to build a team.”

Two of the squad, Teresa Hogsbjerg and Laura Hainey, played for Sudbury’s previous ladies team, and two others, Rose Benton and Ellie Rogers, started playing for the club at U12 level. Several of the new squad were members of the 2019/20 season’s successful U18s team, which was in the top eight in England.

The U18 Girls’ excellent run in the RFU National Cup came to an end when they went down to a 17-10 defeat to Sutton & Epsom in the London & Southeast regional final at Harpenden in March last year.

Around half a dozen of those players are set to join the ladies’ squad. Plus there are others, now at university, who will play and train when they can.

Rogers expects to run a Sudbury-only ladies team. In previous seasons player numbers have meant some of the Girls’ section teams have had to cluster with players from another club in tournaments.

And he hopes to compete in the league structure as a new development team. Sudbury applied last year, only for the season to be called off. The club will apply again but, if unsuccessful, will play Merit Table (organised friendly) matches.

Last year’s bid to join the league structure was supported by Chloe McMorran, the RFU area facilities manager for five constituent bodies, which includes Eastern Counties RFU.

Players need to be 18 to take part in women’s rugby, or 17 with permission from Eastern Counties RFU. Training, following RFU guidelines, has started, with the squad set to have a run out at the Colchester 10s and Norwich 7s during the summer.

The Ladies and Girls teams are training together at Whittome Field on Wednesdays 7-8.30pm. From August the Girls will switch to Thursday 7-8.30pm. New members of all ages and abilities are welcome.

Laura Hainey, Mark Eves and Andy Waldock coach the U15s and U13s.

For more about playing Ladies’ or Girls’ rugby at the club email: mark.rogers33@btinternet.com

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