Ladies’ rugby is increasing in popularity in England, thanks partly to the national team’s Grand Slam success — and in Chesterfield the Pink Panthers are still on the prowl.
Now they are looking for more players to help take the team forward as it prepares for what will become an annual summer ladies’ 10s tournament.
Chesterfield Panthers RUFC Ladies — the Pink Panthers — currently compete in the women’s National Challenge Midlands 2 East division, this season playing against the likes of Derby, Hull, Lincoln and Scunthorpe.
Based at the Panthers’ Dunston Road headquarters in the town, which was launched in 2013, the ladies’ team was formed in 1994 to mark the club’s 75th anniversary.
Tight head prop Maria Allford, the only surviving member from that beginning, said: “I have seen a lot of changes over the 22 years we have been together.
“The club was then based at what is now Stonegravels and there is even a road called Rugby Road, where we were.
“Numbers have peaked and troughed over the years, but we have kept going and progressing, which has been a great achievement.”
The Pink Panthers are part of the This Girl Can initiative to encourage women to do anything that men can – and want to continue to give women the chance to play rugby.
The side are also aiming to repeat their league success of the past, which included moving up the Midlands divisions and getting to within one step of the Championship.
But this season they struggled for league success because of injuries and retaining players. Now the Panthers ladies have launched a drive to recruit new players.
Allford said: “We have suffered a lot with serious injuries this season — broken elbows, knees and collar bones, for example, things that aren’t easy fixes.
“And we really seem to struggle with player retention. It seems to go in cycles — we get a good team together and then pregnancies, marriages and other reasons mean we have to start again.”
The side has players of various ages and abilities and welcomes interested people of any standard.
Allford added: “Playing and training helps you to get fit without really noticing. The beauty of rugby is that there is a position for you, no matter what your shape or size or height. Everybody can get involved.
“We welcome all ladies to come down on a Thursday night (from 7pm-9pm) to our regular training sessions or to our upcoming tournament to see what rugby is all about.”
That second annual 10s tournament, featuring clubs from around the country, will be held between 21st and 23rd July with matches played on Saturday 22nd.
It will feature ten teams of ten players in matches lasting 20 minutes. There will be group matches before a knockout stage.
This year the tournament, which includes a disco on the Saturday evening, will raise money for the charity Derbyshire Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse Service (DDVAS).
Allford said: “We as a team wanted to donate to a local charity that helped people in our area.”
The tournament will include fundraising through raffles, tombolas, cake sales and its first lip sync battle competition with all proceeds going to DDVAS. The team will also attend Chesterfield Pride on the Sunday.
Sponsorship and donations from local traders is welcomed — and traders can set up stalls pitch-side on the Saturday
For further details about the ladies’ club or setting up a stall for the tournament, contact Michelle Lord, call 07968 587524 or email Shell_lord@sky.com
Chesterfield Panthers, which also includes three senior men’s teams and junior sides, is holding an open day on July 1.