Women’s sport on campus will take another step forward in 2018 with the establishment of a rugby league team to compete in the NSW Women’s Division 2 competition, writes Graham Croker. 

The announcement of the formation of a women’s team was made by Chris Kintis, the President of the Sydney University Rugby League Football Club (SURLFC).

“Every year at Orientation Week on campus we’ve fielded enquiries from female students wanting to play rugby league, so this year we decided to take names and did some recruiting with the aim of entering a team for 2018,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll have any trouble getting the numbers given the interest we have seen to date from female students.”

The club then went a step further by appointing Elizabeth Vrahnos as General Manager of the new team. “She’s an accredited coach and also the mother of Jake and Adam Vrahnos, who play in our Division One side in the NSW Tertiary Cup competition,” Mr Kintis said. “Elizabeth will work on getting the numbers and start to build a culture for the side which will come under the umbrella of the NSW Rugby League. “There are two women’s divisions, so we’ll be looking at starting a team in the Division Two competition.

“And to stay connected with the Club’s history, we held a Foundation Dinner at Forest Lodge Hotel which has had a strong affiliation with SURLFC, its players and supporters going back to the 1960s.”

The establishment of the women’s team was one of two big recent announcements made by SURLFC, the other being the new alliance between the club and the NSW Physical Disability Rugby League Association (PDRLA) for the 2017 season.

The partnership will see SURLFC as the naming rights sponsor of a range of awards, including “Most Improved Player” and “Encouragement Award” for the Physical Disability League program.

Mr Kintis said SURLFC has long been committed to fostering an all-inclusive and collegiate sporting environment.

“I’m keen to see the disability league become more involved,” he said. “I think both teams can learn a lot from  each other and opportunities to train together such as this are important in promoting greater participation in rugby league.

“I understand that participation rates in sport of people with a disability tapers off around mid to late teenage years. The NSW Physical Disability Rugby League gives both adults and children with disabilities the opportunity to learn and stay involved in a game they love.”

Former Chairman and Associate Founder George Tonna said rugby league is one of the most popular sports in NSW, so kids and adults with disability want the opportunity to play the game just like their peers.

“Life is about opportunities and learning from them, and it’s amazing what confidence can be gained when given the opportunity to play our great game,” Mr Tonna said.

Mr Tonna said training, playing and, indeed, any physical exercise leads to enhanced general health both physically and mentally and is linked to reduced depression, stress and anxiety.

“These are issues that affect the whole of society and are not restricted simply to people with a physical disability,” he said.

Both organisations aim to remove any negative perceptions of people with a physical disability and to focus on actual abilities of the playing group.

“SURLFC is looking forward to building a long relationship with the NSW PDRLA,” Mr Kintis said. “This is a really exciting partnership that will enable the NSW PDRLA to grow and create more opportunities. Our club is proud of its work in the community and a big part of that is inclusion, which this partnership fosters.

“We really look forward to working with the NSW Physical Disability team to help increase the awareness of opportunities for people with physical disabilities to play.”

Mr Kintis said SURLC had been busy consolidating its position before making the two announcements.

“The men’s team is now coached by the experienced Luke Srama,” he said. “The player numbers and standard are good and can only improve. We had 10 players selected for the annual City versus Country game at Mudgee, including Marcus Pappas, Myles Fowler, Leon Fifita, Jade Ferguson, Daniel Rowe, Daniel Hicks, Aristoteli Taktikos, Max Linden-Smith and the Vrahnos brothers.

“Marcus Pappas is our second elite level SUSF Elite Athlete Program Sports Scholar. He’s a Bachelor of Applied Science (Diagnostic Radiography) student. Producing elite players for the Scholarship program is a real boost for the club and hopefully they’ll be the first two of many more.

“We also have our first Dave Chadwick Scholar in Jake Vrahnos who has been an outstanding player for us for a number of seasons.”

The Scholarship was established to honour Dave “Pear” Chadwick, who helped resurrect the club in the early 1960s and had a 50-year association as a player and administrator. Mr Chadwick, who passed away last year, was a talented player with SURLFC and was awarded a Blue in Rugby League in 1964.

“Dave was a driving force behind the club since 1962 and a highly respected club man,” Mr Kintis said. “I’m sure he’d be pleased with the direction we’re taking with the establishment of a women’s team and the sponsorship affiliation with the Disability League.

“And we haven’t forgotten our other mission of moving up to a more elite level competition in the NSWRL.”

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