MORE people participated in rugby across Australia in the past year than ever before, with 615,809 participants in 2013, an increase of 27.5 per cent.
Participation in Rugby Sevens is a major factor in this increase.
Figures from the Australian Rugby Annual Participation Census show participation in Rugby Sevens grew more than 40 per cent in the past year, equating to an additional 15,864 participants taking part in the faster and lower contact version of rugby.
Australian Rugby Union CEO Bill Pulver said increasing participation at all levels of rugby and creating an inclusive Australian Rugby community were critical to the game’s long-term success.
“Growing rugby, particularly in new markets using the exciting sevens format of our game, is critical to the long-term sustainability of rugby as we strive to ignite passion in the next generation of players and fans,” Pulver said.
Australian Rugby Union general manager rugby participation Andrew Larratt said there was an increase of nearly 40 per cent in the number of participants experiencing rugby through promotional and occasional participation to make up around a third of overall participants.
“We know if kids are exposed to rugby at a young age they will become fans of our sport and will have an opportunity to learn the values of rugby – passion, integrity, discipline, respect and teamwork,” Larratt said.
Rugby Sevens will be featured at this year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow for men, and will be included at the 2016 Olympic Games for the first time in Rio de Janeiro for men and women.
Australian Rugby Union general manager rugby sevens Anthony Eddy said focusing on programs to attract more women to play rugby sevens and the lure of the Olympic Games was having a positive impact on participation numbers.
“In the past year, we’ve conducted the national schoolgirls’ championship and a national talent identification program which has attracted new players to rugby sevens.
“The increased interest and grassroots participation is being reflected on the international stage, with Australia’s Women’s Sevens team winning the first tournament of the 2013-14 IRB Women’s Sevens World Series in Dubai last November.
“This development activity is having a real impact. Five of the current national women’s sevens team were competing in the national schoolgirls championships just over a year ago.”
With a host of other initiatives either well underway or in the pipeline, it’s clear the future of the involvement of girls and women in rugby looks bright.”