Women's Rugby Coup…the first Australian Club Championship Is Born

A rare act of generosity has put an Australian Club Championship match for women on the rugby calendar for the first time on March 4 in Brisbane. Gold Coast’s Bond University and Sydney club Gordon will duel for the title on the same day that Wests (Brisbane) and Sydney University vie for the men’s mantle. The momentum for the ground-breaking women’s clash between the Brisbane and Sydney premiers was triggered by Felicity Bennetts, one of the few female General Managers of a senior club in Australia. While her club Wests will host the day at Sci-Fleet Stadium, she has taken the egalitarian view that it doesn’t matter that the club’s own women’s team is not involved. “I was in a position to kick it off because Wests are one of the only clubs in the country I knew I could count on for support from the board for such an idea,” Bennetts said. “There wasn’t much likelihood of other clubs inviting women’s teams with no connection so I realised there was a void to be filled.” In an age where many clubs find it hard to pay all the costs associated with their own teams and operations, the Wests Bulldogs will shell out thousands of dollars to help fly the Gordon team up from Sydney. After some productive argy-bargy, Stan Sport will broadcast both the Australian Club Championship matches on a true “Super Saturday” before matches kick-off in Melbourne in Super Round. Bennetts is something of a force of nature at Wests. She was a feisty hooker in Wests’ first women’s premiership team in 2007, has been a long-time administrator at the club and was honoured as a Life Member in 2022. She is also a recent Queensland Reds Super W team manager amongst the hands-on managerial roles she has been involved with. “Rugby has male-dominated boards but it doesn’t mean clubs can’t lead by example. To me, it doesn’t matter that my own Wests club aren't playing in the Australian Club Championship for women. As I told my board, it’s important to use support at one club to influence other clubs for the years to come.” Queensland Reds centre Mel Wilks has enormous gratitude for the opportunity she never saw coming for her Bond University club. 

Bond's Mel Wilks (right) receiving the Cheyenne Campbell Medal from the former Wallaroo herself after the Brisbane women's grand final last year. Photo: Brendan Hertel, QRU

“I’ve had ‘Flick’ as team manager at the Reds. She has a lot of love and energy to drive the women’s game,” Wilks said. “This is a big effort and another way to grow women’s rugby. “It’s a great opportunity to play and test ourselves against the girls from Sydney. To be the ‘first’ in a game of this standing is great.” Wilks was a standout Player of the Match in last year’s Brisbane grand final with her potent running game instrumental in a 25-12 upset of Easts. She had been a regular in training camps for the Wallaroos but just never quite pushed through to win her maiden cap. Her irresistible form in the grand final had “Wallaroo” written all over it and Wilks admitted missing out on the squad for the World Cup in New Zealand had fuelled her. “I’d spent a lot of time in Wallaroos camps. Definitely, you are always trying to prove yourself and there was that motivation for the grand final,” Wilks said. Leading backrower Lucy Lockhart (Souths) and Wallaroo Madi Schuck (Easts) have moved to other clubs so the Bond University Bull Sharks will be throwing a more youthful team at Gordon. Click Here: Love Forever Stamps 2022