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They do exist: dutch rugby players in England

13 October 2005

I have just come across this blog from Linda Riel. She is Dutch, used to play for the national Dutch ladies team and now plays in England for St Albans.

I started playing rugby only after I moved to England. I joined Old Leamingtonians as it is the only women's rugby team in Leamington Spa and surrounding areas. I knew nothing about rugby but at the end of my first season, I won the award for Most Improved Player. I am not sure if that means I am now a GOOD rugby player, but it means I am not as rubbish as I was when I started. And that is nice.

After my first season, I just wondered what the level of ladies' rugby in The Netherlands is like. If the health of the national competition is anything to go by, it does not look very good: each year, teams struggle to keep the competition alive, the Dutch RFUW does not seem to exist or is in a permanent state of sleep. It seems a small group of hard-core rugby women are keeping the game alive in The Netherlands.

I am not blaming anyone for this. Women just do not play enough rugby in The Netherlands. It is a total minority sport and without attention, the sport will not be able to move forward and get the attention, and funding, it so desperately needs.
Having said that, the Dutch team almost made the World Championships in Canada next year but missed out to Samoa....

Mind you, the support for men's rugby is not much better it seems. The Dutch RFU has a draconian website that screams AMATEURS and certainly does not give you the feeling it is taken seriously by anyone else but those playing the sport. The website says things like "We need to get more attention for our wonderful rugby sport." ...our beautiful rugby sport.....it just makes you feel there are all good willing amateurs.

Hang on, this post is going in a direction that I did not foresee. If people (read: The government and prospective players) are not prepared to put effort in (and if nobody really knows that they can play rigby at a local club), then those who DO put effort in are limited by time and resources. Until rugby is taken seriously by all parties in The Netherlands, I doubt it will be able to grow to the next stage.

Anyway....I did have a point....

When I got my award last season, I thought: I wonder how good/bad that makes me compared to my Dutch counterparts. Wouldn't it be nice to go on tour in The Netherlands to see if my team fomr the Midlans 2 League would match up to the Dutch girls who play in the highest (and only??) Dutch league. Perhaps I could even play for the Dutch national Team? Not this year but perhaps in 1 or 2 years? Or is that a ridiculous thought? I have NO idea of the general level of Dutch Ladies Rugby. So I emailed the Dutch RFUW and asked them if they kept a record of Dutch women who are playing rugby abroad. You know, in case they need to be selected for the national team.

Their answer: No. We keep a record of Dutch women who play for the National team and THEN go abroad. But apart from that we do not know about Dutch women playing abroad and there is no real reason for us to keep track of them or register them somewhere. We only select the national team from woen who play in The Netherlands.

And there you have it. A mentality that reeks of amateurs. How about Dutch women who live in New Zealand and might be really good. Or in whatever other rugby-loving country they get their experience? What if she turns out to be a really good rugby player who, with her experience and training from England, can really add something to the team? They would not know about it. And there is no way a national team will select someone who just calls and say: Hello, I think I am good enough to join the national team, will you have me? It is strange that someone who might be really good because they played in a foreign country would have to move back to The Netherlands before they will ever be considered for the national team.

By the way: how DO you get selected for the National tam in The Netherlands? Your coach informs the Dutch RFUW? Or you call them to tell them you think you are good enough to join them?

I am not saying I am good enough. I probably am not (yet/ever). The way they responded just really dissapointed me because I have fallen in love with rugby. It is a wonderful sport to play and to see the enthusiasm of the players being stiffled by a lack of organisation and direction makes me sad.

But until someone is prepared to put in some decent money and get all noses pointing in the same direction, women's rugby in The Netherlands can not move forward. Because it will remain a sport that is run and organised by people who do it outside their normal work commitments, who do not have the time to run an RFUW the way it should be run. Or they DO work at it full time but the support is just not enough with only so few people playing rugby. They try as hard as they can and they do their best but to make the next step forward, an air of professionalism is needed.

Mind you....the RFUW here in England is pretty rubbish itself but that is a completely different story. They are professional rubbish people. So I can actually hold them responsible for making a mess of things. With willing amateurs, like the Dutch RFUW, it is hard ot criticise because people do what they can to help.

I know this: If I ever return to The Netherlands, I plan to play rugby. I plan to help as much as I can with keeping the game alive, widening its potential and telling people it really is a great game to play.

It is. Go to your local rugby club this weekend and see if you want to join in.


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