Brick by Brick: HERstory with Kelly Zacny & LeeAnn Napriorkowsi

April 05, 2024


Brick by Brick: HERstory with Kelly Zacny & LeeAnn Napriorkowsi

Last month, Rugby Ontario spoke with LeeAnn Napriorkowski and Kelly Zacny, the two recipients of the Women In Leadership Fund and avid members of our community, to share their insights and experiences during Womens History Month. Napriorkowski currently serves as the President of the Canadian Jax and VP of Development at Lanark Highlanders while Zacny has recently become president at Georgian Bay Titans RFC. The conversation highlights the growth in the Women’s game and important steps to ensure more opportunities are within reach for women in rugby. 



Advice to Women Trying To Find Their Place In Sport 

Kelly Zacny: My whole life has been in male dominated fields and what you have to do is just never back down. You have to believe in your personality and know that you can do what you want to do and be strong about it. Don't take no for an answer. Everybody's still a human, man or woman. As long as we have the ability to do the job or to do whatever it is, we have the right to be there. Just keep pushing forward and don't be intimidated. I think I intimidate guys more than intimidate me. Maybe because I'm used to it. But yeahI've got guys that will inspire me or will roll with me which is actually a good feeling. It's an empowering feeling and that's one of the greatest things to me is being a part of combat sports and being in male dominated industries; its super empowering. I encourage women to do it because it feels damn good to walk into a room and feel confident about yourself and your abilities, especially when you're in a male dominated aspect. Never back down ladies! 


A Moment You Reflect on With Pride 

LeeAnn Napriorkowski: Winning championships is great, and we've done that with different teams. I think building better humans is always part of my coaching mantra and that if you leave a programme that I've worked with you, you’ll become a better human by the end of it. I'm very lucky to have most of my high school players come back and help with our high school team. One of my colleagues now is one of my former high school players and he's taken on the women's team at St. Peter and in Ottawa. It’s a proud mama moment to sit and watch him take over practices and have other athletes come back and work with our crew and see their development through something that that I worked with them. It just makes me happy to see the work that I did coming to fruition with a new generation of athletes because rugby is a sport that you owe something back to. 


Growth in Women’s Rugby  

Kelly Zacny: I'm excited to see that women's rugby is growing around the world and that world rugby has taken initiative to put more women on council and in decision making positions. Just improving the outreach of rugby in general because it is a phenomenal sport and both men and women should be playing on equal playing fields. I'm happy to see that there's so much growth for sure. On the community level, I'm excited to be in this position I've hit the ground running, and I'm excited just to build the sport in my community. I'm happy that Rugby Ontario is seeking a lot of initiative, and it seems they’re in the right direction in terms of helping women grow in the sport.  


The Importance of Building a Platform for Women 

LeeAnn NapriorkowskiIt's cool to have an opportunity to be able to speak to future leaders and future players. I just hope that they don't think their voice doesn't get heard and that they make sure to fight for things that matter. Let's celebrate the good and let's make sure that everyone hears about the good and we try to help each other out. Especially as women, I think it's important that instead of putting each other down, we build each other up and make sure that when Kelly's successful, I'm successful. We share that experience with each other so that everyone can be successful together. 


The Roles of Women in Sport 

Kelly Zacny: Women are very capable, and people just need to recognize, and we just need to step up and get in those roles. I think we have a lot to offer, and people will see. I know even myself just getting on the board this year. People can see women can bring a lot of different skills to the table and skills that are often needed. I'm not saying it's a man versus a woman thing, but we often just have character traits, personality traits, organizational skills or multitasking skills that offer a different perspectiveDon't don't be afraid to go out there and go after what you want because we have a lot to offer. 



Rugby Ontario is the provincial sports governing body responsible for the organization of rugby in Ontario. Our mission is to lead, support and promote Rugby for All from communities to clubs to province. This mission signals a movement toward creating a more cohesive, supportive and progressive sporting environment that is responsive to the needs of all members.

To learn more, visit



© 2022 Rugby Ontario. All Rights Reserved. Powered by SportLomo