As society becomes more accepting, the number of sports young women try their hands at grows.

Long gone are the days when girls played netball and boys played rugby.

In previous, more old-fashioned times, young girls were pigeonholed into playing netball only, because that's what was accepted.

There was a time when the idea of a female playing rugby or cricket was laughed at.


Netball is still hugely popular - as it should be. It's a fantastic sport. However, girls these days have a lot more options than they used to.

Twenty years ago, when I was a sports-mad youngster, I had a female cousin a year older than me who loved football and cricket as much as I did.

There were no all-girl teams back then, so Tracy played down a grade in my team.

As kids, we didn't think much of it, other than having a laugh when countless male opponents underestimated her.

Looking back, I can see it was girls like her who fought the stereotypes of what they should and shouldn't do who paved the way for the next generation.

At the weekend I covered the New Zealand Māori Rugby League Teina Tournament in Rotorua. There were 12 girls' teams involved.

Bay of Plenty 13s Kotiro player Satriani Tahau makes a run during the New Zealand Maori Rugby League Teina Tournament. Photo / Ben Fraser
Bay of Plenty 13s Kotiro player Satriani Tahau makes a run during the New Zealand Maori Rugby League Teina Tournament. Photo / Ben Fraser

The Bay of Plenty 13s girls' team was pulled together from a range of different sports and, by all accounts, they loved their first competitive league experience.

There is still work to do. Bay of Plenty does not have a regular rugby league competition for girls, but it is something they are looking into and, in my opinion, we are heading in the right direction.


In recent years, the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union has placed great focus on growing the women's game, as has New Zealand Rugby.

The Farah Palmer Cup, our national women's competition, has more teams than ever and the Bay of Plenty Volcanix are thriving.

That is the high-performance end of the sport, at the other end is where you have to foster a love for the game and provide pathways.

This year Bay of Plenty held its inaugural primary school girls' sevens tournament in Tauranga, a drive to get more girls playing sevens.

Waikite Rugby Club leads the way in that respect with the Waikite Kōwhai under-7 and under-6 all girls ripper teams brimming with talent.

The under-7 team split into two teams and played in a curtain raiser for the Bay of Plenty Steamers at Rotorua International Stadium last month - an experience they will never forget and one which served as an advertisement for any girls watching.

By no means am I saying girls should not play netball, I am saying is it's great that they have choices.

There is still a way to go, you still hear comments such as "you're playing like a girl" on sidelines at boys' rugby games, but in general, we have made progress and that should be celebrated.

The important thing to remember is that children play sport because they enjoy it.

My cousin Tracy and I were best friends growing up.

She died a few years ago and our time playing sports together are memories I will always cherish. It didn't matter if we were playing football, cricket, netball or tiddlywinks - we were having fun.