For the first time in history a women's Horowhenua-Kāpiti sevens rugby team will contest a tournament on home turf tomorrow.
A huge increase in the popularity of women's rugby is evident in a record amount of teams entered for the Central Regions Sevens Tournament at Playford Park, playing on a field adjacent to the men.
Not only was the skill level of women's on show of an extremely high standard, it was fantastic as a sporting spectacle and exciting to watch.
Just four women's teams were at the event last year. There were eight teams this year - Taranaki, Manawatū, East Coast, Poverty Bay, Wanganui, Wellington, Horowhenua-Kāpiti and Wairarapa Bush.
But a late withdrawal by the Bush meant the field was down to seven.
The HK women's team was coached by former Horowhenua-Kāpiti forward Ryan Shelford who said a majority of the squad had never played sevens rugby before and had their first taste of the shortened format at a tournament last weekend.
Shelford said despite not winning a game, they improved with every match and as a rule were very quick to adapt.
"They are attentive and take it all in and learn very quickly," he said.
Shelford said an internal competition involving five teams with the province - Rahui, Paraparaumu, Shannon, COB and a combined Athletic-Wanderers team - was successful and the reason they were able to field a representative side.
He said a conscious decision by the HKRU to move the women's season window to early spring was a master stroke as many players were committed to other sports during the winter, like netball or hockey.
"That window was the key so didn't have that cross over of codes and had a bigger playing pool, and people that played out of the region were available " he said.
But the seed was sewn over a period of years as the HKRU had worked hard to establish primary and secondary school girls' rugby, which was also hugely popular, and over time naturally produces more senior players, he said.
Meanwhile, a full field of men's teams are entered in the tournament. Games start at 10am, with semi-finals due to start later in the afternoon, and finals starting at 4pm.
It is the fifth year that Horowhenua-Kāpiti had hosted the tournament.