Strong Ladies of Women’s Rugby: Down and Dirty

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Rugby is an intensely physical sport. With 80 minutes of nonstop play and only a 10 minute halftime, it is more punishingly cardiovascular than football, with all of the contact and none of the padding. Needless to say, bumps and bruises are common occurrences for the American University Women’s Rugby players. 

Because of the raw physicality of the game, some team members like Christina Ngo, a junior and a back on the team, think that others see female rugby players as “big and tough–they just lift 24/7.”

However, this stereotype does not hold true for AU’s Women’s Rugby team. Anyone can play rugby, according to Rebecca Winchell, a senior and forward on the team.

“There’s this image of big, butch lesbians,” Winchell said. “But we have girls who are five-feet-tall and 90 pounds and they still do rugby. There’s a place for everyone on the pitch.”

Rugby is somewhat unusual because the rules for the game do not change between men and women. Co-Captain Maddie Ecker, a senior, appreciates the inherent equality of the sport.

“It doesn’t cater to women,” she said. “It doesn’t try and bend the rules a little bit. Rugby is that one place where men and women are equal.”

Yet, Ngo finds that, “Men’s rugby is a bit more popular. People are a fan of the intensity of men’s rugby.” As for the women who join her team, she said, “A lot of people are very hesitant because they’re afraid to get hurt.” 

Rookie Hannah Wohlfahrt, a freshman, was not sure what to expect when joining the team this semester. 

“I felt a little bit emotionally drained after my first game–but also excited,” she said. Despite any initial reservations rookies may have, the AU Women’s Rugby team puts just as much energy into the game as their male counterparts. 

“Rugby is a very demanding game in terms of the physical standard that you kind of need to be at just to keep yourself safe,” Ecker said. The challenge and physicality holds much of rugby’s appeal for Winchell. 

“When you come out of the game, you feel like you accomplished something–and like you got run over by a truck,” she said.

Above all, the women of AU’s Women’s Rugby team is in it for the game and nothing else. 

“This is a group of girls who are giving everything to literally just play rugby on Saturday mornings,” Ecker said. “There is nothing more to it than that.”  

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