The Runner Sports

Women’s Premier League: Four Months To Kickoff, It’s Time To Pay Attention

The Women’s Premier League (WPL), if you’re a rugby fan you’ve probably heard of it; if you’re a good rugby fan you follow it. I’m willing to bet most rugby fans have much to learn about the WPL, and through my attempt to provide the competition as much recognition as possible I intend to pass on to you what I know about our the top women’s rugby competition in our country. I spoke with WPL Commissioner Milla Sanes and Glendale Raptors head coach Kittery Wagner Ruiz to get their impressions of the upcoming season, and while it might seem a bit premature, as an excited rugby fan who enjoys watching Elite level competition, I’m eager to get started.

With the season just over four months away I say it’s not too early to start previewing the competition as a whole. There will be some changes this year as defending champion San Diego Surfers will have to contend with two squads not in the WPL last season: Beantown Rugby and Chicago North Shore. This is a return to WPL competition for Beantown who left after the 2013 season and a new challenge for Chicago North Shore who join the Glendale Raptors, Twin Cities Amazons, D.C. Furies, Atlanta Harlequins, Oregon Sports Union Jesters, Berkley All Blues, and New York Rugby in the chase for the title.

Former Beantown player Wagner Ruiz said of the new additions, “Growing the WPL is fantastic. This allows all teams to have more matches, more game time is what many rugby players in the USA need in order to grow.” She pointed to her 10 years playing for Beantown and said she is, “so very excited to see them back in the WPL.”

The chase will likely begin, according to Commissioner Sanes, during or on the heels of the Women’s Rugby World Cup which runs August 9-26. “Normally we try to push back the season a bit in World Cup years,” says Sanes. “However, due to our recent expansion, we are a bit more constrained so will actually be starting the season a week earlier than we normally do this year.” The season usually kicks off in early September, last season that start was Saturday, September 10. Based on Sanes’ comments I anticipate we could see action as soon as August 26, no later than September 2 making for a great Labor Day weekend.

Milla Sanes pointed out benefits to starting earlier, “We often see more veteran players who have just competed in the World Cup take some time off following the event.” This is, in fact, encouraged by coach Ruiz. “I always recommend taking time off after World Cup,” she informed me. Aside from the obvious physical benefits Commissioner Sanes identified other good reasons for doing so. “This provides an opportunity to see new players,” Sanes said, “or increase their playing time.” An early start is not solely a benefit for the players either. “This is often a time when we see teams trying something new.” Getting an early start should give coaches time to work some of the game action kinks out as well as see players they may not ordinarily see in match conditions.

Fans will get to watch the title match streamed live on The Rugby Channel as well as some matches via Glendale’s broadcast at Infinity Park. “The only games that the League coordinates the live streaming of are our Championship games,” says Sanes. “Other than that, I don’t know of any other regular season games that The Rugby Channel will be covering this fall. But that might change.” Coach Ruiz added, “I believe we will have 4 or 5 matches [at Infinity Park] and these will indeed be televised.”

As the club season comes to a close and the playoffs begin just know it won’t be long before the Women’s Premier League kicks off its Elite competition. “I am really excited to see the first season with ten teams,” says Sanes. “It will be interesting to see how the new teams, Beantown and Chicago North Shore, rise to the challenge. As the League continues to improve, build up elite women’s rugby, and grow the game, I am confident that this will be a great season to watch!” Wagner Ruiz agrees, “The WPL is on the right track adding more teams. I am excited to continue watching the WPL grow as the women’s game grows in the country. Always an exciting adventure each WPL season.”

I couldn’t agree more and I appeal to The Rugby Channel and USA Rugby, give us a match of the week and ensure every team is televised at least once. Give this league the attention it deserves and give us the coverage we deserve.

 

 

-By Jason Graves