Kick start in the downs
Most people struggle to do just about anything with a broken ankle, but Cecil Plains’ Sarah Pearce continued to lead a women’s rugby sevens team
There has been a lot of effort to get ready and it will take a substantial amount of time to be as fit as I was before it happened. SARAH PEARCE
From a young age, she has been a die-hard Wallabies fan. However, when asked if she previously saw female rugby as a possibility in the Dalby region she said absolutely not — it just wasn’t available. After the triumph of the Australian women’s rugby sevens team in the Rio Olympics, Sarah Pearce of Cecil Plains realised this was an opportunity in the region and formed the Dalby Wheatchix — an offshoot of the men’s Dalby Wheatmen rugby union team. The Wheatchix are not alone: Goondiwindi Emus, Toowoomba Bears, Condamine Codettes and the Warwick Water Rats have also been inspired by the medal-winning team and this year joined the UQ Gatton and USQ Saints teams in a Downs competition. At the Wheatchix’ first training session only six women attended. However, as word began to spread the numbers gradually increased. Sarah poached four girls from the AFL Darling Downs competition and several more from touch football — herself included, as she grew up playing touch while boarding at Fairholme College. As the pre-season continued so did the training, requiring a twice-a-week commitment in Dalby. Four months on from the first training session, the Wheatchix decided it was time for their entrance into the competition. Unfortunately some problems struck, as captain and founder Sarah broke her leg in the first match, restricting her from on-field involvement. Looking back on the injury, Sarah described it as truly disappointing. Sarah says the Wheatchix team had a lot of developing to do from the outset, but is incredibly proud of her team’s progress. "Our second major carnival has really shown that to have happened," she says. Playing against more experienced teams, the Wheatchix received a baptism of fire into the sport with their encounter against Condamine as their first pre-season victory. The Wheatchix finally tasted victory against the Condamine Codettes in round one of friendly fixtures, played at Condamine on March 25, where the Wheatchix also picked up several sponsorships offers. “Everyone wants to get on board, the involvement in this club isn’t limited to players,” Sarah says. Sarah is looking forward to returning to her peak level of fitness as well as helping the young up-and-comers in the club. “It’s nice they’re getting the opportunity and this is the perfect starting point for these girls.” Due to the growing success of the senior competition, the Dalby Rugby Union Club held a come and try day and successfully fielded a junior women’s team. Coach Rick Stone is an instrumental part of the team, teaching them everything they need to know about plays, the game and teamwork. In Sarah’s and the club’s perspectives the day showed the interest was there, even from women who’d never played. The come and try day also was successful in filling a complete under 15s team and scouting another player for the senior women’s team. Watching these women forming their plays, cheering each other on and at half time making sure their children in the spectators camp are drinking plenty of water, it’s easy to see the great culture that has sprung up around the Wheatchix. “To wear the Wheatchix jersey has to be something to be proud of, we are pioneering a path that hopefully many girls will walk down,” Sarah says.