University of Tasmania readying to join new Australian women's rugby sevens competition

A planned bid to establish an historic semi-professional Tasmanian women’s rugby seven-a-side franchise in a National Sevens University Series starting next year is one step closer to reality.

University of Tasmania is on its way join one of up to 10 varsity sides bidding for a spot in a new ARU-backed competition.

The proposal would be to capitalise on the growth of the women’s game since Australia’s gold-medal win at this year’s Rio Olympics that includes to have every state represented in the NSUS.

Tasmanian rugby development officer Luke Burgess has been finalising the UTas application in recent weeks. 

Burgess, a former 37-Test Wallaby, was behind the new Tasmanian Rugby Sevens Series at the end of the state 15-a-side season that also included a men’s division.

The round-robin series that split into a north and south matches completed its fourth round at the weekend ahead of the state finals.

“We’ve got all the people that we need in terms of the elite squad – doctors, physios, strength and conditioning staff, coaches even, all ready to go,” Burgess said.

“So we’ve got all that sorted for our bid. We just now need this (Tasmanian) competition to be very strong.

“We just now want to run another competition at the start of next year and that will run us into that almost pro-women’s competition for next season.”

Burgess said the ARU had extended the window for all final universities wanting to bids up until mid-November.

He is also staking more than just his reputation on establishing a Tasmanian women’s sevens team.

“I just want to believe it’ll happen – for my own job,” he first joked.

“But I can’t see why not to be honest. I can’t see why wouldn’t you put a team in Tasmania at UTas, and play games at Sandy Bay and/or in Launceston.

“There’s a fantastic facility up here in Launceston. 

“You’ve got the sports science people there, so there’s just no reason why not.

“We’ve got some girls up here (in Launceston) who can do something with their rugby.”

UTas has plans to move from its Newnham campus to Inveresk over the next three years into a proposed $260m facility.

Burgess believed the new campus would also include a state-of-the-art “rectangular pitch” that could host future rugby sevens matches.

“This is all a no-brainer for the ARU, I think,” he said.

Burgess is also confident there is enough raw Tassie talent to compete with top universities in the rugby heartlands of Sydney, Canberra and Brisbane.

He named Lauryn Cooper and Isabella Hardy, recovering from a broken hand, both standouts, Rioko Learmont “showing amazing pace and talent” while Emily Howard is a “proven good athlete”.

“They are all some fantastic, really good athletes that are starting to pick up those rugby skills,” Burgess said.

We’ve got all the people that we need in terms of the elite squad – doctors, physios, strength and conditioning staff, coaches

TRU development officer Luke Burgess