Ruck On

Australia Shows the Way for Women’s Rugby

Australia women's rugby team

Kim Donaldson has the low down from Rugby Australia on pay parity for women’s rugby and a preview of the Six Nations

Ruck On is presented by Kim Donaldson & Chris Stafford

Podcast length: 29’49”

Retired Team Canada Hooker Kim Donaldson and rugby fan Chris Stafford discuss the latest news in women’s rugby from around the world. The top story comes from Rugby Australia, which has made a new collective bargaining agreement that will guarantee women’s and men’s 7s and Super Rugby starters the same base pay and making history for the women’s game by leading the way to pay equity for the leading nations. In Europe the Six Nations tournament gets underway next month and Kim has the scoop including details of the TV coverage. She also has the inside line on what’s been happening in Ireland regarding coaching changes and player’s retiring since the 2016 World Cup, how England and Wales are shaping their ranks for the season, plus notice of the upcoming HSBC Sevens tournament.

[00:00:01] Hello and welcome to Ruck On the rugby show. I’m Chris Stafford, and I’m Kim Donaldson and I’m so glad you’re here Kim because what do I know about rugby. I think you know more than you give yourself credit for Chris. You seem pretty on top of it.

[00:00:17] I love it. Put it that way and I wish we had the opportunity to play when I was a young woman because I really do enjoy it.

[00:00:25] And I think you and I’ve talked about off air we talked about you know the World Cup last year and how exciting that was when you and Maria Samson were doing Ruck On last year leading up to the World Cup. And all of that excitement and then being able to watch it online and then when we got to the final. And I have to say even though I was made in England I was rooting for the Kiwi girls. I mean they were absolutely awesome. It was just what and I keep playing that I keep playing that on YouTube you know. It was just awesome.

[00:01:00] Yeah number one, like you said, the accessibility one you could watch it you weren’t there and you could watch it easily. And number two is the caliber of play and it’s hard not to cheer for a team like New Zealand just because of the level of play their professionalism and just what they managed to pull out under pressure. It’s phenomenal.

[00:01:21] It was so exciting the game the power play you know and the way they just lifted the game in the second half was awesome.

[00:01:29] Yeah they never, never relent. They’re always wanting more no matter what position they’re in.

[00:01:36] You know Kendra Cocksedge the one of the Kiwi girls she’s be the guest on New Zealand show a couple of times now and I was texting with her not long ago actually before she came back on the show the end of last year and that was the first shock. So I got to tell her what you know how much I enjoyed watching her play you know because I said You remind me of my terrier because she’s relentless like a terrier going after a rabbit. They never give up right. Yeah that’s like Kendra. And all of those girls it was just super to watch. She

[00:02:10] really was phenomenal. And obviously there’s been more happening since then.

[00:02:17] A lot has been happening and we got a lot on the show this week and I’m thrilled that you’re back Kim and we should remind everybody that you were a hooker for the Canadian team and now you’re retired doing a bit of coaching up there in Victoria B.C. still got your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the sport.

[00:02:33] I try to, as I just mentioned to Chris off line I kind of had my head buried in the sand over the holiday season when I pull it out.

[00:02:41] I was kind of surprised that oh wow yeah there’s a whole there’s a whole world of rugby that’s going on, I need to get back on top of things.

[00:02:48] Well you have because you’ve got a great lineup for us on this episode of Ruck On. So let’s get started because caught my attention this week. You know I follow the news as closely as I can. For women it’s all sports.

[00:03:00] And when I saw this news coming out of Australia I was like yay why don’t we move to Australia. This is great news for rugby.

[00:03:08] Australia has some very exciting news this week rugby. Australia announced that they had a new collective agreement to guarantee women’s and men’s sevens as well as Super Rugby starters. The same base pay so that means that sevens players were both men and women will be paid a living salary. The entry level salary is forty four thousand dollars 500 as well as Super Rugby starters and Australia actually kicked off a new women’s Super Rugby League that will be starting this year in March so there are five teams and so just really speaking to their commitment to professionalizing women’s sport and women’s rugby specifically rugby. Australia has a new CEO as of the end of 2017. Raelene Castle and yes she was really important for her to get this bargaining agreement under way just to follow suit with other sports. So in Australia women already have similar collective agreements for cricket as well as AFL and also have professional soccer and netball for women so Australia a lot of really exciting things happening.

[00:04:30] Very exciting and good for them they really led the way you know with cricket with netball and AFL and you know I think they’re finally realising the value of women’s sports now and the need to get that sponsorship get professional contracts and get the media coverage. And of course the cricketing girls they won the Ashes that took place just at the end of last year.

[00:04:56] That was really meaningful to them to win back the Ashes and yeah I think it’s just very encouraging because it’s having an effect in that sport and beyond that sport Kim that’s that’s the great thing about you know when when the country steps up and does something like this you know recognises women you know it’s hard for the other nations especially the leading nations in sport to ignore that and we’re going to talk about England now because they got to the final the World Cup of course but got beaten by the Kiwis and there’s been a little bit of a scrummage but I have to say amongst the ranks hasn’t there?

[00:05:40] Yeah so England has a few interesting things going on. I mean the English program is probably the most in-depth program I’d say in the world.

[00:05:50] So even on their national side they have several layers to their team they have there their starters but then also have probably three versions of who their starters can be and A teams and B teams and specialty teams and they have so much high level rugby for such a small place so similar to Australia they’ve actually just started professionalizing their top level for their women’s league and so that started this past fall.

[00:06:20] And so what they’re actually doing is looking at their next club level the women’s level 2 league and so right now just as part of that commitment to strengthen the women’s game. They’re doing a review which will conclude in March and to seeing how they can continue to support and facilitate the growth of the women’s game.

[00:06:40] So as I said that club season got underway in the fall and right now the Saracens sit at the top of it. They’ll be taking a bit of a break for Six Nations obviously. But yeah England is just. For me a more known leader in terms of growing the game and so nice to see that other nations like Australia have that sort of commitment.

[00:07:03] Yeah for sure. You mentioned the Six Nations there Kim, one of my favorite. I mean on the men’s game and the women’s game is the Six Nations of course you know as a European it was pretty much the highlight of of the winter season the Six Nation comes round and you got some you know some of the best best sport in the world right. Not withstanding of course you know those that are not participating but it is a much much loved series. Do you guys watch that you know as Canadians that give you like a marker of you know where each teams are.

[00:07:41] I mean you know you guys have talked about it on the show before but it is a good indicator it’s a good barometer I guess for you to see how that is playing out.

[00:07:49] Yeah it really is.

[00:07:51] But the only time of minor difference, Six Nations also coincides with the Seventh Circuit. So sometimes those teams will be lacking a handful of players that that might be away with their sevens side. But I think maybe because in terms of international rugby in North America we kind of have a bit of a break in the scene we have our own club leagues and the rest of the country people are training but yeah like for us to stay involved in the game we want to know what other teams are doing and Six Nations are always so exciting every year.

[00:08:25] No it’s not a sure win who’s going to be in the top and there are some really interesting performances and upsets and yeah it’s always a really exciting tournament.

[00:08:36] And it gets underway on February 2nd. Right. So that’s right.

[00:08:40] So Wales will host Scotland for the first game and that will be – sorry I thought I where they play.

[00:08:51] Do they play in. Cardiff?

[00:08:55] It could could be in Cardiff. I’m not entirely sure Chris.

[00:09:02] And so they’re going to host Scotland well that’ll will be an interesting kickoff.

[00:09:06] Yeah absolutely. Wales made it and had the performance that they wanted through the World Cup but in their games leading up to the World Cup showed a bit more moxie and some good performances against Japan. So that problem has been growing and I have some confidence in Wales and I know has a spot in your heart Chris. So I’m excited to see how Wales fares.

[00:09:30] I know Scotland started to recruit some crossover athletes. They have a new athlete who’s crossed over from skiing which is interesting.

[00:09:40] So yeah be interesting to see to see what those two teams do with that first match. Also from six nations there will be a game held in Bassie Corsica when Italy takes on France. That’s a little later in February. And the cool thing is again we mentioned the accessibility and so six nations trying to promote this sport has guaranteed that each game will be made available either on TV or streamed on the Six Nations web site. And the Rugby Union specifically. And then this is the cool thing the BBC will host a Monday night round up of the previous weekend’s matches. So again just continuing to promote the sport for people who may not be maybe be known to the women’s rugby. Really pushing it forward. You get the word out there to get the good word out there Chris.

[00:10:37] Well that’s great. So it means we can watch it over here. North America does it.

[00:10:41] Yeah that’s right. So we can follow play by play what was happening.

[00:10:46] Oh fabulous. So how do we do that then where do we go? Is there a web site we should know about?

[00:10:51] Yes the Six Nations web site. You should be able to see what’s going on there.

[00:10:58] Just reading through the specifics of them seem like they have a full broadcast lineup but I will keep you posted. So it’ll either be through… I know I’ve watched games via YouTube through bad Union’s YouTube channel and I’ve also watched it on the World Rugby Web site so those are a couple of places to check out.

[00:11:17] That’s really good to know and if you have any more information on that Kim do you want to tag us on social media and we’ll share that for listeners. Because I certainly want to be keeping up to speed as to where we can watch that and we will share that and promote on the other shows too. So if you have any more information just go ahead and take us @WiSPsports.

[00:11:38] No problem.

[00:11:39] You had mentioned how well such a special place in my heart. It still is because I spent a lot of my childhood down there riding ponies on the Welsh mountains and yeah I absolutely love it down there in South Wales particularly and so they’ve always been my favorite rugby team on the men’s and women’s side. You know I’ve always kind of championed them.

[00:12:01] Yeah.

[00:12:02] Go ahead.

[00:12:03] Rugby is really growing as well in Wales so I think in South Wales it’s been a little bit more popular but it seems like in recent years the women’s game specifically has grown through northern Wales as well and so it seems like it’s a very very much a growing sport for women which is exciting to see.

[00:12:21] It’s great but just across the Irish Sea, their neighbours over in island my goodness has that been stirring up a storm since the World Cup. I really feel for those girls. We’ve been covering that story a little bit elsewhere about the Irish rugby girls because they’ve had a rough time since the World Cup. They lost a coach and the governing body just abandon them right Kim I mean it was still full awful.

[00:12:53] Yeah I guess I’m disappointed and not surprised Chris.

[00:12:57] I feel like I’ve been through and seen the same kind of thing firsthand here in Canada. So the build up towards the World Cup towards Ireland hosting the World Cup I thought was fabulous. There was good media promotion. It seemed like the country as well as the union was really on board. They didn’t have a performance that they wanted unfortunately but also it’s an amateur team and that just means that all the women who are playing also for the most part have full time jobs. So they’re putting in as much commitment as they can and you know like so many rugby players and so many athletes they do offer for the love of the game and for the love of their teammates and they put in as much as they can but you can only do so much with what you have. Since the World Cup the head coach Tom Tierney he stepped down and there was a bit of controversy around the posting that came up for the head coach position. It was posted as a part time position and some players had had a hard time with that specifically Centre Jenny Murphy was very outspoken and talked about what a travesty it was and I think it was maybe a contributing factor to her stepping away from the sport for a year she said. A sabbatical year and I think she’s dabbling in some other things like boxing but just didn’t feel like the union was giving the support that she felt that she and the other athletes deserved. So yeah it had a bit of a bit of a hard time.

[00:14:31] So for now anyway as an interim coaches are Adam Greg’s with Mike Ross and Geoff Carter’s been brought on board just recently I believe he helped coach the forwards. It seems like they’ve also had a lot of retirements. So Sophie Spence played for Ireland she worked for them for the past five years had an incredible impact over those years and she’s just recently retired at the end of 2017 and it seems like they’ve got several new caps on the roster I think they have nine new caps for six nations so as we said before already Six Nations is an exciting tournament and I think an opportunity for some of those younger players to get in as well and just kind of so teams can start to figure out what their what their playing styles are like and athletes in certain meshed and gel together. So yeah that’s what’s up with Ireland. I wish them the best and it just seems like a bit of a transition time for them right now.

[00:15:30] Yeah and you know following that story about how you know they were offered a part time coach because they were amateurs. But it also had an effect on some of the players saying okay if you don’t believe in us you know you don’t deserve our loyalty and they couldn’t afford to be paying their way to games. I’m sure you’ve heard this elsewhere. You know how players just have to fork out of their own pocket and yet it’s not like they’re playing at club level, they’re playing international level and it’s still costing them.

[00:16:03] Yeah this is a system that I know very well unfortunately that was that was the system for the duration of my career and then right after my retirement we had some alumni who did some incredible fundraising and helped us step away from the pay to play model but a very recent thing in Canada and just Ireland being surrounded by so many strong rugby nations.

[00:16:29] It’s just too bad that a strong union like the Irish rugby union can’t get on board to to help them out.

[00:16:38] Yeah for sure. Well hopefully their luck changes. You know as we get into the Six Nations and the Sevens as well of course, We talked about the Six Nations getting underway in just a few weeks the beginning of February but before then Scotland has a friendly to play.

[00:16:54] Yeah so Scotland is hosting Spain in Glasgow at Scotstoun stadiums that’s January 21st that’s next weekend I think.

[00:17:02] So yeah that would be the first International Women’s fifteens rugby for 2018 which will be exciting. I don’t have any information on whether that will be aired or not but I’ll keep my eye on it and let you know.

[00:17:16] And then after that I’ll be the Six Nations and after that we’ll be into the spring and summer. So for now there are six nations to watch Sevens rugby will be starting soon as well.

[00:17:29] So the HSBC Sevens they had their first stop Dubai in November and in Australia took that title home so the next one will be in Sydney and that’s the end of January – I believe January 26 to 28th.

[00:17:44] And you know it’s become very popular we’ve seen the short format you know the sports as well for the purposes of attracting a broader audience to be you know TV friendly, media friendly and so on. So you know we got this long and short format for so many different sports. How do you feel about the short format Kim is not a game that you enjoy as much as the fifteens?

[00:18:07] Enjoy differently enjoy the spectator. I think I dabbled in it maybe as a club player but given my position it was never really my forte. Chris I do love watching Sevens because it is so exciting. It’s a bit of a different skill set. The use of space longer passes a different type of contact. Yes it is a really exciting game to watch and I think cool to bring in spectators who maybe are unfamiliar with rugby and I know watching fifteens can just be a pile of confusion. So at least at least Evans has those fun bursts and fun highlights. I was a little bit worried just with the take off of sevens that fifteens would start to be cast aside.

[00:18:52] I know here in Canada that you know because Sevens is an Olympic sport, a lot of funding and resources even outside of the Olympic level are starting to be tailored towards Sevens because that’s where athletes will have let’s say – use the word success – that will be they’ll be able to make it that the first and it’s cool to be an Olympian and you know kids want to do that. It is really nice to see though again going to jump back to Australia and how proud of Australia I am that they’re keeping their 15th game going and so not just at the international level but with the development with their Super W teams as well and England putting the resources into their premier sides.

[00:19:43] So it is nice to see that fifteens does have a place in people’s hearts and in their pockets still. So yeah just a different sport. And if we can continue to attract more people to the game then that’s great.

[00:19:58] That’s one way of doing it. Absolutely. And I know finally you’ve got a story about women’s wheelchair rugby which is great to have and I’m glad you brought this to our attention because the one thing that’s noticeable and we’re seeing a lot more equality amongst sports it’s starting to happen more. But it’s not in wheelchair rugby use it because women are not in the Paralympics.

[00:20:20] That’s right. So I actually had the luxury of going to the men’s Paralympic Rugby World Cup a few years ago that was held in Vancouver and I hadn’t really heard about a women’s side and so when I saw the story I got really excited. So this was held in Paris France, the fourth women’s wheelchair Rugby Cup.

[00:20:40] And so I think really true to to a sport that I find it kind of makes it happen. And you know players come because they love the game. So in Paris they had 30 athletes show up and they split them into six teams based on all nationalities and geographical areas and they had I think 14 countries represented in the end from across Europe, the Americas, Asia.

[00:21:06] Yeah and had a really successful tournament and the athletes were wanting more and wanting to know when the next tournament is going to happen. And I think they also use that as a platform to develop referees as well and so had an all female tournament to develop the sport for players, referees, administrative staff, everybody. So yeah pretty exciting to see and hopefully with with this growth it might be something that ends up in the in the paralympic circuit as well.

[00:21:34] Fantastic, well what a lot of news you’ve got for us this time which is really fabulous. Thank you so much Kim. It’s always good to catch up with you and tell us what you were doing before you go. Are you coaching now, do you get to play at all in winter?

[00:21:49] Still boots are so firmly planted on the shelf Chris, no desire to win them all.

[00:21:54] Oh no, really?

[00:21:55] Yeah that’s how it is but I do really enjoy coaching so as I’ve spoken about before on this show in the fall I was working with the University of Victoria and working with their universities season which wrapped up towards the end of October. And so for me the second half of the rugby season in BC I’m devoting to you the Castaway Wanderers – CW – a local club based out of Victoria. So we work with them on a weekly basis and our games get started in a couple of weeks and so we got back to the pitch this week. And yeah we’re great role fantastic.

[00:22:33] Now I know you keep fit for any occasion don’t you. You do gym, you’re still you know just keep your level of fitness up though. I mean – just because you’re not playing rugby you’re still an athlete right.

[00:22:45] It’s true. Also my career for several years was training other people and so I’m very comfortable in a gym. It’s a place where I can relax and unwind. Moving back to the west coast there’s an ocean about eight minutes away. So I enjoy running along the water. There’s mountains to climb there’s all sorts of things to do here. Yes staying active and staying fit is very much a part of my life and I don’t think, I don’t think I’ll let that part go anytime soon.

[00:23:17] And it’s good to hear. Kim, well thanks for coming to the show again. And I know you were going to be circling back in a month’s time you will come up with more news. Maybe we’ll find a guest to join us as well.

[00:23:28] Could be Chris, can’t wait.

[00:23:30] Excellent, alright, well don’t forget to check us out at We’ve got over 30 shows now 750 episodes and we already have a global audience of one and a half million for WiSP Sports Radio so there’s something for everybody here and I hope you’ll tune in. Download us on any podcast player and visit us online. You can also get the full transcripts of these shows at and we are out on social media WiSPsports, and Kim remind us of your Twitter handle.

[00:24:02] @KimmieDonaldson

[00:24:14] And if you got any updates Kim you’ll tag us on social media so we can share with everybody right.

[00:24:21] Yeah and game time.

[00:24:23] Fantastic, all right, well we’ll be back in a month’s time with more from Ruck On, until then, thanks for listening, goodbye for now.

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