Janet dreams of con­tin­ued im­prove­ment for ’Stones

Bray People - - SPORT - JANET ROPER

GREY­STONES RUGBY CLUB is home to a vi­brant girl’s and women’s club. It started in 2011 with about ten girls and is now home to around 100 girls and a grow­ing adult team. They have an av­er­age of 19 play­ers com­ing to their games.

Janet Roper is the cap­tain of Grey­stones women’s team. Orig­i­nally from Leitrim, she started to play rugby when she was 15 and moved to Grey­stones about five years ago when the adult team got set up.

“I was here from day one, when they just started train­ing. Ev­ery­body was a be­gin­ner ex­cept for my­self. We started from scratch. Peo­ple didn’t know you had to pass the ball back­wards, they didn’t know any­thing about full con­tact. It started with the very ba­sics and learnt the game from there.”

The turnover of play­ers is an is­sue for many clubs but Grey­stones face the added chal­lenge of au pairs com­ing to the town. It adds an in­ter­na­tional flavour to the club but also makes it dif­fi­cult for the team to build year on year.

That’s only one neg­a­tive, for Janet it has mainly been pos­i­tive. In their sec­ond year Grey­stones got to the league fi­nal while the club is very good to women’s team and helped her when she ar­rived in the area.

“We train on the first pitch which isn’t al­ways the norm for women’s clubs around the coun­try. For me per­son­ally, when I moved here I didn’t know any­body. Play­ing rugby meant I formed a re­ally good friend­ship group here. Some of my friends don’t play any­more but I’ve made solid friend­ships from rugby and I think many of the girls found the same, es­pe­cially the girls who aren’t from here.”

The women’s team gets the same stan­dard of prepa­ra­tion as the men’s sec­onds or thirds which Janet finds fair enough.

“In any club the first team would get pri­or­ity. They get all the free­bies, the high-qual­ity stuff. If the women’s team were a bet­ter team, if we were play­ing AIL, I’d ex­pect the same treat­ment as the men but we’re not, we’ve got a long way to go yet.”

Telling peo­ple she plays rugby isn’t one of Janet’s favourite pas­times given their re­ac­tions.

“Peo­ple think you’re a bit mad. When I’m telling peo­ple to come and give it a try, I’m prob­a­bly the short­est rugby player you’ll ever see, I re­mem­ber say­ing to a girl ‘why don’t you come down and give it a try?’ and she said she was too small. I was look­ing up at her. A lot of peo­ple think it’s only for big, mus­cly, rough peo­ple but it’s not, it’s for ev­ery­body.

“Then, de­pend­ing on your po­si­tion, you get bruises and you have to be very care­ful be­cause peo­ple might think it’s some­thing else. Girls who get bruises will have dif­fi­culty in work, for ex­am­ple one of the play­ers works in a ho­tel and wasn’t al­lowed out of the kitchen when she had a black eye.

“Things like that do af­fect you, peo­ple want you to give it up. I’m lucky my fam­ily are okay with it, some fam­i­lies don’t want to hear about it be­cause it’s so rough and other peo­ple are very sup­port­ive.”

Janet would change two things about women’s rugby if she could, one with her club and one with the sport of women’s rugby.

She’d love for the team to keep the play­ers it has and con­tinue to grow as it has done over the last few years.

She’d also love for the club to con­tinue to ap­pre­ci­ate the women’s team and put the fa­cil­i­ties in place for them to im­prove over the next few years.

On Ir­ish women’s rugby in gen­eral, “I would re­ally like to see the in­ter­na­tional team be­come pro­fes­sional. Giv­ing the pro­fes­sional sta­tus to a team gives them the recog­ni­tion and train­ing that they de­serve to com­plete at the high­est level.”

Lucy Mul­hall in ac­tion for Ire­land.

The Grey­stones women’s team.

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