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Thread: Howard, Cheika, Godfrey get behind push to put rugby into girls' schools

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    Howard, Cheika, Godfrey get behind push to put rugby into girls' schools

    Wallaroos captain Ash Hewson grew up twirling and flicking a football in her sleep, the middle child in a family of seven from Jervis Bay. At the tender age of four she learnt to tackle her three brothers in the backyard. For as long as she can remember she has relished the thud, thump and crunch of contact.

    Hewson's grandfather played first-grade rugby union for Gordon on Sydney's north shore and her father played with the Australian Federal Police. Were it not for being born a girl, Hewson would have followed in their footsteps. But she was 30 years too early and had to give up contact sports when she turned 12.

    "Once you were 12 you weren't allowed to play with the boys any more, so you had to find another sport," Hewson said. "We only had the options of netball and soccer."

    Thanks to the next generation of gifted female footballers, that is all changing.

    The Australian Rugby Union is preparing to make a massive incursion into girls' schools across NSW and Queensland, and a host of high profile Australian leaders including former prime minister John Howard, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, Microsoft Australia managing director Pip Marlow and former Virgin Australia boss Brett Godfrey are throwing their support behind the push.

    "The women's game has grown organically here, and now the participation is starting to exceed the actual opportunities to play," Cheika said. "Recently I had friends of ours, whose girls play in a team, contact me to try to find them a field to train on, because they couldn't find any."

    Hot on the heels of the Australian women's sevens team's inspiring gold medal win at the Rio Olympics, the ARU is beefing up its pathways to make sure it has a dog in the fight for the hearts and minds of talented young female athletes. The program is already being trialled in schools in Queensland, and now the Australian Rugby Foundation – using the pulling power of Howard, Godfrey, Cheika and others – is helping fund a further introduction in NSW.

    "It's being done, not because they think it's [politically correct], but because they genuinely see the upside both in participation and in supporters," Cheika said. "You can see it spilling over into all parts of sport, [female participation] is absolutely normal. What wasn't normal was what was going on before, the male domain. That's not normal."

    The rest at: http://www.smh.com.au/rugby-union/un...14-gs2ea2.html

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