You play ball like a girl: Women’s rugby kicks off at UNF

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Have you ever wanted to just run and tackle someone and not get in trouble for it? If so, there is a brand new club at UNF for you. One of the newest clubs at UNF is the woman’s rugby team that just started this spring.

Rugby is a sport that has some aspects of football, but in other ways it is completely different. With 15 players on the field at all times, there is no offense or defense like in football.

Women’s rugby is somewhat of a new sport to the Jacksonville area. The city has its own team, the Jacksonville Sinners, which team president Melissa Newkirk started in 2006.

“I played at UCF and the Orlando team, but when I came home to Jacksonville, there was no team,” Newkirk said. “So I started the team so I could play and have the chance to get the sport out to others in the city.”

The Sinners have a roster made up of about 20 to 25 girls, around half of which are UNF students. Many of the schools in the state, such as FSU and Miami, have not only city teams but also teams for their campuses, with many girls participating in both teams.

In order to be recognized as a university team, the team must have 15 girls registered with USA Rugby. Right now, UNF has about 10 to 12 girls, which opened the ability to form the club on campus as a way of generating interest.

They started last semester, which is when they did all the paperwork to become a club. After being accepted, they could start when the Spring semester began.

“We hope starting the club on campus will bring in interest from people who may not have heard of us before or knew we had a team here in Jacksonville,” said Tara Rowe, UNF senior and team captain.

They said they encourage any interested girls to come to a practice and give it a try — whether you don’t know anything about the sport or you have been playing for years.

“Many don’t even start to play rugby until they are older,” said Michelle Castanos, a UNF master’s student and member of the UNF women’s rugby club. “I did not start playing until I was 21 or 22.”

They have two coaches, Ricky Brown and Chrissie Wiederhold, who know the game well and are willing to teach anyone who wants to come out and learn the sport.

They practice 7-9 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the 9A and Baymeadows regional park less than 15 minutes from the UNF campus. The team has a fall and a spring season that typically run five to eight games each, and it tries to split them half and half with home and away.

Its first game of the year will be Feb. 5 at Huffman Park against Savannah.  Huffman Park is less than 10 minutes away from campus, located by UNF and FSCJ.