Women's rugby is very much on the rise in the Bay of Plenty.
The number of participants at both club and school level is growing quickly.
The pathways for players and coaches through both the sevens and fifteens game are providing opportunities to represent Bay of Plenty on the national stage and then hopefully the chance to pull on the black jersey for our country in either a World Cup or Olympic Games.
We are very focused on the opportunities for females to play our sport and have increased our investment to support this. We are extremely fortunate to have community support such as Marra Construction, who have partnered with Bay of Plenty Rugby Union to invest in our young women.
This year we have already seen plenty of rugby action. Following the success of the North Island Secondary Schools Girls Tournament held at Blake Park in early April, which saw Tauranga Girls' College take out the Girls Under-19 title, the Bay of Plenty Girls Under-18 Sevens team was selected. The team competed in the Northern Regional Under-18 tournament held in Cambridge.
The side coached by former Black Fern Victoria Grant gave a fantastic display of sevens rugby and the girls topped the tournament off by finishing runners-up to an experienced North Harbour side.
From sevens rugby we have transitioned to fifteens as the Baywide premier women's season kicked off with a fiercely contested pre-season tournament at Rotoiti Rugby Club at the start of the month. The day provided an abundance of exciting rugby action, with this year's newest team, Rangiuru, causing havoc for a number of sides. Waikite triumphed over the determined young Rangiuru side defending their pre-season title with a 12-7 victory. Rangiuru will join the returning sevens teams who have again entered this year's competition in Arataki and Tauranga Sports to represent the Western Bay of Plenty, Te Whanau a Apanui and Waimana will represent the Eastern Bay, with Waikite and Rotoiti leading the Central Bay of Plenty challenge. Tokoroa will also return to the Baywide competition for the second year in a row.
Mother's Day was a fitting occasion to mark the start of the 2016 season with mothers and daughters taking to the park throughout the Bay of Plenty. There was a fantastic turnout at all hosting clubs. They all embraced a celebration of women's rugby, enjoying a whanau day out and were treated to a great display of competitive rugby.
Along with our women's club competition we are excited to see the Secondary School Girls grade kick off next week with a record 14 teams involved.
This is more than double the number of teams that competed in 2015. Following our local competitions we will have our Volcanix Women's team and Bay of Plenty Secondary School Girls team, both backed by Marra Construction, taking on the best in the country as they proudly represent the Bay.
I encourage you to get along and watch first-hand the amazing female athletes as they represent their school, club or region.
You won't be disappointed.