Shower & toilet upgrades reflect rise of women’s rugby: Bunnings.
This content was prepared by Bunnings Warehouse and is being published by NZME as advertorial.
Shower partitions, female cubicles and changing rooms with closing doors might be what you’d expect to see at your local rugby club – unfortunately it’s not often the case and it’s a problem.
As women’s rugby booms in popularity, bringing in unprecedented female participation numbers, clubs are playing catch-up to provide the necessary facilities.
Luckily, dedicated club members in rugby clubs across the country are committed to making changes to support the women’s game and Bunnings is right behind them. Thanks to Bunnings Rugby Assist, 10 clubs are starting the season with $300,000 worth of new and improved clubrooms, featuring spaces dedicated to women’s rugby.
Wainuiomata Rugby Club is one, putting their share of the grant towards female changing rooms, showers and toilets.
“Here in Wainuiomata, we have a lot of young female talent coming on the scene; we wanted facilities to help us attract and retain that talent,” says Zoe Clark, a premier rugby player and assistant chair of the club’s building and maintenance committee.
“It was pretty gross before. The changing room had showers, but it was all in an open room. It was all right for guys but women like a bit of privacy, which we’ve been able to sort with shower partitions and cubicles.”
“The second part of our project was to move the position of the urinal from the front of the changing room to the back. We have built a new female toilet and a unisex toilet. Before that, it wasn’t exactly welcoming for women,” Clark says.
Matt Kimmins, Bunnings Petone Complex Manager, says the number of rugby club applications seeking money to upgrade their shower and toilet facilities is a clear indicator of the growth of the women’s game.
“In 2022, Bunnings Rugby Assist was dedicated to supporting the growth of the women’s game, at a grassroots level. We knew there was a need to help even the playing field and to enable more girls and women to play the sport.”
“Most rugby clubs were built decades ago, when there were very few opportunities for women to play the game,” he says. “Women’s teams sometimes have to make do with what is on offer, however uncomfortable, which can deter uptake and engagement in the sport.”
Absolutely, says Clark: “You know, when we had home games and the guys are playing too, we usually had to go and change at the [neighbouring] squash club. But what’s that about? It just makes you feel like you are not really part of the club; that you are some kind of add-on.
“We want to feel the real atmosphere of game day, not be shunted off elsewhere. That’s not the Wainuiomata way – this is a really close-knit and small community, where everyone supports everyone else; we have each other’s backs.
“We want to make sure our women players and whānau feel part of the club in every way – and it’s a big deal for the younger generation too. You spend a lot of time at a rugby club – training twice a week, game day and other events as well – so it’s a bit of a home away from home and you need facilities which feel welcoming.”
Clark says the rise in female players can be seen in the club’s overall roll of 550-600 players. It has about 100 junior female players and 20 seniors, so about 20 per cent of the playing strength is female. She doesn’t know what the comparable figures were even a few years ago but seriously doubts the number of female players would have been anywhere near 20 per cent of the total.
“We also have more women on the main committee,” she says, “and they are also very aware of the need to cater for females.”
It’s not before time either. New Zealand Rugby has launched a campaign to support the predicted growth in women and girls’ participation this season, thanks to the World Cup success. They foresee a 40 per cent increase in participation on 2022 numbers, which would see over 35,000 women and girls playing club and school rugby across the country this season.
Kimmins says the bathroom and toilet upgrades are more than just renovation: “They really represent the new space being found for our female players within the rugby community – and are crucial for the growth of these women as individuals and as players.
“The club upgrade projects are also great for our team to get involved in and support the clubs. Bunnings Rugby Assist connects the Bunnings team in each community to work with the winning clubs to fulfil their projects. They have project WIPs, offer advice on product and materials, attend working bees and more.”
For more information: www.bunnings.co.nz