A moment to reflect on three incredible leaders in rugby in Canada - Ngalula Fuamba, Karen Paquin & Brittany Kassil (L to R)
On International Women's Day we want to take a moment to share our gratitude for the incredible women of Rugby Canada's Womens XV team. If playing at the highest level wasn't impressive enough, Karen Paquin, Ngalula Fuamba & Brittany Kassil are all working to grow the game through leadership positions in their respective clubs, through coaching, and through initiatives to encourage ALL girls and women to pick up a rugby ball.
The Canadian Women’s team made an unforgettable impact on rugby last November in New Zealand. The global rugby family was buzzing about Canada vs. The Roses as we all sat on the edge of our seats watching the amateur Canadians led by Captain Sophie De Goede - who recently graduated from Queens University - take on undefeated England led by Sarah Hunter - a professional player who has been playing on the national team since 2007 (when Sophie was just 8 years old!). This match was to be a predictable step on England’s path the finals, but was anything but, with Canada pushing England much of the match.
(in case you missed it check out the highlight reel here - it should come with a goosebumps warning!)
It is a match that will be talked about for years, leaving impressions on the future generations of rugby players.
Canada did not win the World Cup, but that performance has also prompted many in the Canadian rugby community (as well as fans around the world) to ask - how much would it cost to bring home gold? Canada does so much RIGHT in rugby. Our women’s and men’s team athletes receive equal pay for playing (which depends on if they play 15s or 7s and how many matches and training camps they attend). This is likely unique in rugby across the world, and something to be proud of. But to attend a centralized training camp in advance to the RWC 2021 the women created their own “Go Fund Me” page to crowd fund this. The financial circumstance also had athletes billeting at family homes to offset living expenses.
In researching the salaries of other teams in women’s rugby we found some varying amounts for what the actual salaries are, but it is clear that England as well as many other top rugby countries have fully professional women’s teams. This means that these athletes in a RWC lead up can focus on their training, not needing to hold down part time jobs, or take sabbaticals from "day job’s" to focus on training.
Imagine the mindset of an athlete who has been couch surfing with friends, worrying about how much they can spend on groceries, and just generally needing to rely on support from family or their parter in order to compete going up against a team of professionals who are focused on training at the highest level without these stresses - it is a David and Goliath story for modern day sport. This makes the Canadian women all the more amazing. They went to win and it showed.
Canadian Women’s Coach Kevin Rouet couldn’t be prouder of the team and their outcome.
“In other unions, the girls are paid to be there. In Canada, we are not in this situation at all, even though we are highly ranked as a country. If you look at the top 10 in the world, we must be one of the smallest budgets… So, the value of sacrifice, the value of work are all the more important. On the contrary, it is an additional motivation to say to ourselves that there are perhaps federations that are more fortunate than us, but we are a working country, we are a country that knows the value of sacrifice… And then you can see it when they train. When you have left your job and you lose money to come here, you know why you are here. It can be seen as an advantage or a disadvantage, it can be both. But for us, we take it as an advantage in the end not to have everything easy…In addition, these last few months, I've asked a lot from them, like never before. It was complicated because they had to get along with their work. We have girls in the team who work, who are not full-time players. So obviously, it's always a bit complicated. We have players who have left their jobs anyway or were on a sabbatical leave to go to Rugby World Cup 2021.”
Knowing that the Canadian Women face more obstacles than most professional sports teams, is makes what they made happen in 2021 Rugby World Cup that much more impressive. Gilbert Rugby Canada is proud to work alongside many of these phenomenal women, who are not only CHAMPIONS on the pitch, but also championing the game through leadership, coaching and building the sport for future generations of girls and women.