Friendship gets women's rugby team off the ground at Hawkesbury Agricultural College

Several members of the women's Hawkesbury Agricultural Members at training. The girls have a squad of 22 players in total. 
Back row: Jessica Maxwell, Jacinta Moon, Carla Newstead, Scout Strong. Front row: Antisia Elsley, Alanna McTaggart, Mick West. Picture: Conor Hickey
Several members of the women's Hawkesbury Agricultural Members at training. The girls have a squad of 22 players in total. Back row: Jessica Maxwell, Jacinta Moon, Carla Newstead, Scout Strong. Front row: Antisia Elsley, Alanna McTaggart, Mick West. Picture: Conor Hickey

IT TOOK two years for the women’s Hawkesbury Agricultural College rugby team to get off the ground, and the close bond of living together at campus is the glue that has kept it together.

Team captain Antisia Elsley was shocked to realise there was no rugby team when she arrived to study at Western Sydney University’s Hawkesbury campus two years ago.

Elsley had played rugby all her life in the small town of Carinda in northern NSW. When the now second-year zoology student saw there was no team, she thought something ought to be done about it.

Along with a bunch of girls living together on campus, and with the help of HAC Rugby, they set about getting a team up and running.

Things didn’t work out the first year. But now the girls have a squad of 22 and have acquitted themselves well in their first few matches.

Elsley said the girls were all good mates on and off the field, a key in establishing the team.

“The girls were that keen to play. It really helped having a lot of support from them,” she said.

Fellow player Scout Strong, who graduated from WSU in 2013 and is one of the few players not currently studying, said the friendship spurred the girls to play above their ability.

“Everyone lives on campus so we are like a family. We are all really close friends. At some clubs you might make friends there, but we were all friends prior to this starting,” she said.

“It’s great. Most of the girls are quite small in stature and they give it their all. It’s good to watch the smaller girls try to tackle someone twice their size.”

Turning up for each other is a term thrown around in football circles, something the girls in their first year have embraced.

“It’s positive for the team. We always find even if we are having a bad game, everyone is there to pick each other up,” she said.

“Even when we are training really hard, we are always having a good giggle and really enjoying it even if we are in a bit of pain.”

The girls have played 7s in their first season. When possible, they travel with the men’s team and take on a women’s team. They have also played in a handful of tournaments.

Strong said playing in the rugby team had been such an enjoyable experience this year, it had become her new favourite sport.

“I am a soccer and basketball player originally. My two brothers go to university here and play with HAC rugby,” she said.

“I used to work in the canteen at home games, so naturally I was one of the first people to put my hand up.

“I really enjoy it. I think I am probably better at footy than soccer. I actually enjoy this more than soccer.”