England's Leanne Riley to help Maidenhead RFC launch u13s girls side

The posters have been put up, schools have been visited and the club have been drumming up interest on social media ahead of the launch of Maidenhead RFC’s new girls u13s team this month.

In conjunction with Get Berkshire Active the club will welcome players into the fold with an open training session on the 3G pitch at Braywick Park on Sunday, May 23, with the England scrum-half Leanne Riley set to help conduct the session.

Members of the club’s Iron Maiden’s women’s side, many of whom are also coaches, will also be helping out and the club’s director of women’s rugby, Stephen Jones, hopes girls of all abilities will come down and get a taste of the game.

The session, from noon for a 12.30pm start, is for players of all abilities, as well as new starters who’ve never picked up a rugby ball before.

“U13s is the first year where girls can’t play with the boys,” said Stephen. “So, it means that all of the girls who’ve been with the club since the age of six, they won’t have to go.

“Hopefully, the team will thrive, and it will go on to become an under 14s team and an under15s team.

“The game is just growing; it’s becoming more visible on TV and girls just want to play it.

“We’ve been around all the local schools, put posters up everywhere and done social media and all that and we’ll see what happens.

“Leanne has already started a u13s team, her home club is Guildfordians, and she’s started a team there and she’s very clued up.

“She realises that when the girls come down some will be very proficient while others will never have played before, but it’s just to launch the whole thing and let everyone know we’ve got a girls’ section.

“She has been brilliant. She wants to know who’s going to be there and what we want to do. She realises it will be different teams and she’s really into it.

“If anyone sees the advert and thinks ‘I’m not very good at rugby’, well, just come down because what I’ve noticed is that some players aren’t very good when they’re 12, but when they get to 14 or 15 they’re bloody good.”

Launched in partnership with Get Berkshire Active Stephen hopes the event will also trigger an interest in rugby or sport in general. He hopes the team will be able to play some touch matches against local opponents over the summer before kicking off competitive matches from the start of the new season in September.

Maids have also had a message of support from the England Women’s captain Sarah Hunter, wishing the new team all the best for the future and saying she would following their progress ‘with interest’.

“After lockdown, getting people off their backsides is also very important,” he said. “Get Berkshire Active realise there’s a danger people are becoming too sedentary. This isn’t just for the good of the club, it’s also because we want to get young people off the sofa and, if they don’t want to play rugby, maybe they’ll go on to play something else and that would be a success as well. The aim is to start matches from September, but we’re hoping to play some touch or ‘ready for rugby’ games before then. There are several teams we’re in touch with who we could play, and we’ll take it from there. It’s a long job but Steve Bough (chairman) and Myke Parrott (director of rugby) have both been supportive and we’re looking forward to meeting players and parents on what we hope will be a nice day.”

He added: “We had an unsolicited message from Sarah saying ‘congratulations on your u13s, all the best for the future. I’ll be following your progress with interest’. And that’s from the England captain.” For more information email maidsironmaidens@gmail.com

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The Berkshire Unicorns are holding an open training session for players at Braywick Park this evening (Thursday). The session, which kicks off at 7.30pm, is open to anyone aged 18 or over.

The Unicorns were founded in 2016 and are an openly inclusive rugby club.

Its aim is to bring together players from the Berkshire and West London gay community, as well as straight players, to create an environment where members can gain confidence and self-respect through playing sport.

The club also tackles homophobia and negative stereotypes in the wider sporting community through its performances and sportsmanship both on and off the field.

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