Women In Rugby: Petra Woods
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 6th, 2020
(WHITBY, ON) - In the lead up to International Women’s Day on Sunday, March 8th, Rugby Ontario is profiling three different women in the Ontario rugby community. Today’s profile is on Petra Woods. Petra is a coach and player with the Toronto Saracens and is becoming more involved as a match official. Read more about Petra’s story and stay tuned to Rugby Ontario’s social channels as we celebrate amazing women within our community!
How did you first get involved with rugby?
I started rugby at Mayfield Secondary School in Grade 9. My first time to a rugby trial was actually an accident because I was heading to try out for the lacrosse team but ended up going to the wrong gymnasium. I was scared out of my mind at the size and intensity of the girls in the room, but quickly became intrigued by the challenge.
What is your favourite rugby memory?
My favourite rugby memory was scoring my first international try for Team Canada's U20 rugby program in 2015. This was my first national tour and a try I will never forget.
What do you love most about the sport?
No two games are ever identical. Every team or opponent we face, will always have different interpretations and strategies to the game and you have to be ready to adapt to what is ahead of you. I love the physicality that the sport allows, especially for females, and the sportsmanship that comes with full contact. Additionally, I have met all of my closest friends through rugby. We have one of the safest and accepting communities to learn and grow in, while having fun and building long lasting relationships.
What makes you feel the most optimistic and excited about the growth of women’s rugby?
Our youth and junior programs in Ontario are booming and the excitement increases every time new players are called up to the national program or even provincial program. I am optimistic that the empowerment of rugby players combined with the increasing popularity of the sport will bring higher competition for all age groups.
What are some of the challenges women’s rugby continues to face?
Financial burden seems to be a big challenge for women's rugby. There are many rugby clubs who would drastically improve with regular sponsorship. With lower attendance and registration compared to other programs, the women's team needs to work together to involve our alumni women and keep boosting more grassroots rugby to maintain players and increase spectators/supporters.
Do you have a female athlete/coach/match official who inspired you to get involved in sport?
Kelly Russell has been an inspiring athlete and coach to me for many years of my rugby career. I was first introduced to her at York University when she was a guest coach to her sister, Jenn Russell's university program, York Lions Women's Rugby. She was one to watch during rugby games on television as a captain of the 15s program and during the Olympics. Kelly is constantly integrating herself into the community as a coach and mentor to younger athletes. When I was new to the elite rugby world, I would try to match Kelly's fitness scores and her intensity on and off the field. To this day, Kelly continues to support me and my junior girls club team without hesitation which inspires me to do the same. She also is motivating the next generation of elite athletes working with us in the Rugby Canada academy.
What challenges have you faced as a female in sports?
Challenges always make a person stronger and I think all of my experiences thus far have given me a strong back bone. Some challenges that occur occasionally is the stigma that females cannot participate in contact sports. Some sports go as far as to restrict ANY contact in ALL age grades. Most people comment on my size when they hear I am a rugby player, and until they watch our game, I feel that they are slightly downplaying our strength and ability in sport.
What would you say to a young female who is thinking of getting involved in rugby?
Give it a try, not once but a few times! Rugby has many aspects and laws to it, and some people don't get it at their first practice. Tackling and decision making can be intimidating but once you master it, you will be hooked.
What personal goals do you have for your rugby career?
I would like to continue developing as an elite athlete in the Rugby Canada academy. In the next two years I hope to build as a Maple Leaf athlete in 7s or 15s and attend as many tours as possible, with the goal of getting my first cap for our Senior Women's 15s team. I will also continue to improve my rugby knowledge as a referee and with confidence be assigned high level fixtures in the near future. As a coach, I hope to run a successful and thriving junior girls club program with a strong emphasis on FUN!
In an ideal world, what would the sport of rugby look like in five to ten years?
In the future I hope to see more professional rugby in Canada, and potentially an inaugural pro women's team or league. I would also like to see the Rugby Ontario junior program continue to run their winter academies to allow year-round intense training for juniors - expanding this to the senior level would be a bonus. I also wish to see local rugby club participation numbers increase to bring in new competitors and challenges. The rugby community has always been supportive of personal and charitable initiatives and I hope to see more of this continue into the near future.
ABOUT THE ONTARIO BLUES
The Ontario Blues program is the high performance representative program for male and female rugby players in Ontario. Rugby Ontario is represented at the provincial level by the Ontario Blues. The program includes representative teams from Under-15 to Senior in both Women’s and Men’s Fifteens and Under-18 Men's and Women's Sevens. Specifically, the program is designed to develop and showcase rugby players for Canadian representative national teams.
ABOUT RUGBY ONTARIO
Rugby Ontario is the provincial sports governing body responsible for the organization of rugby in Ontario. Our mission is to establish a stronger identity for rugby in Ontario by promoting the sport’s core values and by fostering a culture of inclusiveness and excellence on and off the field of play.
To learn more, visit http://www.rugbyontario.com/
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