Head to toe in mud - ladies’ rugby - it’s not for boys

Isn't mud supposed to be good for the skin?
Isn't mud supposed to be good for the skin?

When it comes to ladies’ rugby at Judges Road the only rules they keep are the ones on the pitch

Meet the City of Derry Ladies Rugby Team. The squad where it doesn’t matter what you look like, what you weigh or what age you are.

Carla has a really rugby wedding.

Carla has a really rugby wedding.

When it comes to ladies’ rugby at Judges Road the only rules they keep are the ones on the pitch, but off the pitch it’s a different matter.

Glenda Mellon from City of Derry explained the women play full contact rugby and that’s the way they like it.

“What you see in women’s rugby is exactly the same as you see in the men’s game,” she said. “It’s the same sport with the same rules. It’s not toned down at all. We are a full part of the club at City of Derry.

“We have all sorts of different women playing with us, from mothers of four to schoolgirls.”

Team manager Carla Hamilton being hugged by Cheryl Laverty after winning a very muddy match.

Team manager Carla Hamilton being hugged by Cheryl Laverty after winning a very muddy match.

And she says the traditional image of only butch women playing rugby is way off the mark.

“There are so many different reasons why women come into this sport. Some of the women like fitness and like being involved in the competitive side of rugby. For others rugby is their only release. We have women on the squad who have suffered mental health problems.

“Rugby as a team sport has helped girls with mental health issues, including girls with post natal depression, anorexia, self harm issues and mothers with children with special needs.

“They all have said that joining rugby has been one of the best things they have done and has helped their recovery or maintaining their well-being.

“Sometimes for the players, rugby is their only release. Sometimes their worries only stop when they are on the pitch physically releasing energy.

“Their rugby training session is the time when they switch off from everything that’s worrying them. When they are on the pitch they are not mammy, they are not the girl with the illness or the girl at work.”

Niamh Wynne is one of the women in the squad. Rugby, she says, helped her get through her anorexia.

“When I was 14 I weighed 15 stone,” she said. “I started exercising and eating healthily, but it developed into anorexia and my weight dropped to seven and a half stone.

“I looked like a skeleton. I had gone from one extreme to the other. I tried to get myself back on track by eating properly but I couldn’t exercise because I felt cold all the time.

“I always wanted to do rugby. “I joined City of Derry when I was 17 and now I’m part of the family.”

Glenda agrees: “We are like a family, on and off the pitch,” she said. “Our friend Carla McGregor got married and we were all there with her to celebrate. Anything we do, we do together. Carla even had a rugby hen do.”

“Rugby is a release for me,” said Niamh. “It taught me to eat and be strong.

“This year I was diagnosed with depression and rugby has helped me get through it, and get over it. I don’t think about food as much now.

“Rugby can take over your life and become a part of your life. I’ve learned that to play rugby I need to be strong and to be strong I have to eat.”

Glenda said she’d like to encourage local women to come forward and try rugby and get their daughters, nieces and sisters involved.

“The hardest thing is getting the misconception of rugby out of parents’ heads,” she said. “Most are happy for their boys to do it but not the girls. So many girls are doing it, loving it and enjoying it. We’re never happier then when we are out on the pitch head to toe in mud.

“There’s a rugby position for every player, for people of every body type. Nobody cares what shape you are.”

The new season of the club has just started and five of the squad’s players have just taken part in their first match.

To get involved contact City of Derry Ladies on facebook. https://www.facebook.com/City-of-Derry-Ladies-Rugby-217915504919952/timeline/