Although burly, strong and fit to pound another player, a local group of female rugby players say they must bring more than their athleticism to the field for playing the classic, rough British sport.
Stacia Roeth – the coach of the Augusta Furies, the only women’s rugby club in the area – says she helps young women find the decision-making skills beneath the fierce physical nature of the sport, an aspect of the game that men sometimes overlook.
“Females tend to play more of the technical side of it. They think, ‘If I do that it’s going to hurt,’ ” Roeth said. “Females want to understand why and how does that work.”
Roeth began playing rugby about 10 years ago after a challenge from a friend. She played on teams in Dallas and Detroit before moving to Augusta to become the executive director of the Wilson Family Y.
“You can be aggressive and play hard on the field, but the spirit of rugby is that you can come off the field and be friends,” Roeth said.
Spectators never find men playing against women on the field. Experienced members of the Augusta Furies say that although serious injuries aren’t common, a player should be prepared for big bruises and muscle aches.
“There’s nothing to prepare you for getting crashed into,” said Shannon Green, 27, a soccer player turned rugby enthusiast.
The team is composed of several military members and students at Georgia Health Sciences University. Some had experience from college rugby teams, but others didn’t know the rules of the game before joining the Augusta team.
The Augusta Furies began in 1999, but the organization waned until Roeth and a few eager team members rallied players back together about two years ago. Now, they compete in the fall and spring against other clubs in Savannah and Columbia, Charleston and Greenville, S.C.
“This isn’t what most would envision a sport to be,” said original team member Erika Liptai, 32. “You get your first game in, your first tackle in, and you’ll be hooked.”