The Future of Women’s Rugby with Alice Soper

The Future of Women’s Rugby with Alice Soper

We sat down and caught up with Girls Rugby Club Advisory Board Member, Alice Soper, to find out what she has been up over in New Zealand growing the women’s game. For those not in the know, or for those who have perhaps been living under a rock, Alice is a fundamental advocate for the growth of women’s rugby. She recently dived full time into this with the creation of Women in Rugby Aotearoa, a group which brings together hundreds of representatives from across New Zealand with one goal in mind: to grow the women’s game.
She opened the conversation by saying: “My experience in this sport is only my experience, I am not representative of what women’s rugby in New Zealand is as a whole. This group was created to give a platform to allow experts in different areas to meet and interact with each other to grow the game.” Not only is the group effective internally, but it provides a pool of wide-ranging experts who are willing to comment on the happenings of women’s rugby to the media. Therefore, in theory, this means that more coverage of the short should be produced, as journalists are more likely to want to write about a topic if a speaker is readily available to give information on it. When we asked Alice about her plans for the future of the group, she assured us that New Zealand was just the start. She sees the group providing blueprints to other regions across the world, who might be struggling to progress.
“My end goal is not New Zealand; my end goal is a global network. Let’s not pretend that we are stopping here, we are only just starting.” Speaking more specifically on women’s involvement in the sport, she said: “If you’re a woman playing rugby, you are already doing something you’re not supposed to be. The sport is traditionally known as a ‘man’s game’, particularly here in New Zealand where it’s a core part of the male identity, so if you’re a woman involved in the game, you’re already not playing by the rules which are assigned to your gender.” In terms of the future growth of the sport, Alice believes small changes could provide a way forward. Using World Rugby’s decision to approving leggings at all levels of the game as an example, she explained that the law change, which might seem small on the surface, will make a big difference to the sport. “The change was something that could be implemented quickly. By allowing players to wear leggings, you are automatically making the sport more welcoming. I have stood by and watched my teammates burden the shame of being ordered off a pitch by a ref to get changed into shorts.” “The sport isn’t made for us; it’s made for men. The change will hopefully make more of my sisters feel comfortable in their bodies and the game.” “If we dealt with more of these small things, we would feel a bigger impact. The solutions to women’s rugby issues aren’t just based around money. It’s not about resources, its about respect.
It’s not going to be one silver bullet, its going to be hundreds of small decisions that will come together to make this a better environment for us to play in.”
Alice isn’t afraid to speak out when something doesn’t sit right with her and is well known in the rugby world for her fast-speaking updates that she posts frequently on social media. Thankfully, captions are automatically generated so we can keep up! Alice’s professional career spans across multiple different sectors, ranging from being an event manager to working in politics to working with children. On her current role, she commented: “First and foremost, you would never think this would be your job because you are never told it can be. This wasn’t something I had intentionally planned, but I knew deep down I was always going to end up doing this eventually”
The way Alice looks at things in the rugby space makes people question their own thoughts, which can only be a good thing. Here at Girls Rugby Club, we understand that to make any real long-lasting change we must have some difficult conversations first. New Zealand and Women’s rugby have a long history together. Hopefully, the Women in Rugby Aotearoa group will prove to be an astounding success and will show other regions that it is possible to instil change from the ground up. When asked what advice Alice would give to young girls in the sport, she smiled: “Don’t try and navigate your way through a system that is broken, build your own.” “We are doing this work now so the younger ones coming through never have to do what we did. They won’t have to have arguments with clubs or unions. I’m standing on the shoulders of my rugby mums and aunties, and my little sisters will stand on my shoulders so we can see further. That’s always the intention of organising.” More information on Women in Rugby Aotearoa can be found here:

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