Uni-Norths Owls women’s rugby club is one of Canberra’s top clubs for women’s rugby in the ACT region.
The history of the club started in 1993, by one of Owls’ “old girls”, Victoria Fischer, who originally founded and played in the ’93 ANU women’s rugby team. It wasn’t until 1995 that they were able to get the local competition started. The ANU team continued until 2001 when it was amalgamated with Norths, Australian National University and University of Canberra.
Over the last 6 years, the Club has seen a massive uptake of registrations, with this year’s squad involving 40 members across the Premier 15s and 10s teams, with many also being involved in the Brumbies’ Super W team and Australia’s national women’s rugby union team, the Wallaroos.
In 2021, Owls Women’s 15s finished top of the ladder, taking home the ACT Women’s Minor Premiership and the girls are currently sitting 3rd in this year’s competition, not far behind Canberra Royals and Tuggeranong ViQueens.
Leading the Way
This year’s 15s Captain is Meilani Salale who has been with the club since 2018. 10s Captain, Shelley Bradshaw, has been playing with the team for 12 years and joined the leadership team with Meilani for the past 2 years.
When asked about the best part of being team Captain, Meilani discussed the inclusivity of the Club and being able to build on the great foundations of Captains before her, and continuing to foster genuine relationships and respect amongst players across all grades was the biggest reward.
“The success that we have in that area, in terms of player wellbeing and happiness at the club is the most special part to me.”
Although Owls offers two divisions, 10s and 15s, the club operates and trains as one squad. Tactics between the 10s and 15s are generally similar, which means they can train together, focusing on the same technical skills and plays.
Training takes place twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Training could be field sessions or gym training at the club’s gym in Mitchell or ANU campus, where they will run through a weights and strength training or review videos from the previous week’s game.
Apples and Oranges
The biggest misconception and stereotype surrounding women’s rugby, and sport in general, is the bias towards traditionally male-dominated sports and the assumption that the standard within female clubs is not the same.
Meilani says it’s not really about men’s sport vs women’s sport, they’re simply not the same. It’s like comparing apples to oranges.
As many of the older girls weren’t presented with the same opportunities to get involved with rugby throughout school, often coming to Owls is the first time they are exposed to the game.
“Considering this is the first time many of our girls are playing rugby union, it’s exciting to see them learning on the fly, but the standard of competition remains really high,” says Meilani.
Owls is one club, and both the men’s and women’s teams support each other throughout their seasons. Each competition is a completely different game to watch, which makes it exciting and presents an opportunity for both teams to learn from each other.
“As a women’s team we have very much been supported and championed by the rest of the club, and the club culture we have is second to none in my eyes,” says Meilani.
Although you need to be 18 to participate in 10s and 15s, Owls offers a mixed junior club for the under 18s competition, so if you are still at school and wanting to get involved, be sure to reach out to the club.
owls at the ruc
After each home game, the team will head to The RUC with their opposition for a post-match function.
“Even though it’s a competition, it’s nice to be able to keep those relationships off-field and support other women and clubs,” says Meilani.
Outside of post-match functions the team enjoys heading to the RUC on Saturdays to socialise, especially during the Super Rugby and Test match seasons.
Show your Support
Want to get involved and support the Owls Women’s Club? You can find the team’s competition schedule here and be sure to keep an eye on the Facebook and Instagram pages for match updates.
Their upcoming home game on Saturday 9th July against the Royals is the club’s biggest home game of the year, so come down to ANU North Oval at 1:40pm to support the team!
On Saturday 9th July, the team will also be fundraising for the Tongan Relief Fund to support the people of Kanokupolu. Tragically, in the early hours of the 16th of January this year, the Tongan village of Kanokupolu was destroyed by a tsunami and covered in volcanic ash. Being just metres from the seaside, residents’ homes were left in complete ruin with many left displaced and living in temporary tents, awaiting a plan for a new location for the village.
The cause sits closely with the Owls, as one of their own players comes from the Kanokupolu community and has family currently living in the village who were directly affected by the tragedy. All proceeds from the day will be donated to the relief fund to help relocate and rebuild the village hall, a central and vital part of the community.
Their fundraising goal is $50,000 and they have currently raised over $16,000! You can help reach their goal by contributing here. Any amount is appreciated and helps toward supporting the people of Kanokupolu.
A raffle and auction of memorabilia, merchandise and lunches with celebrities will be up for grabs. Get around all the action and head along to ANU North Oval on this coming Saturday 9th July at 1:40pm!