Janet dreams of continued improvement for ’Stones
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.