Mayor praises 'life-changing' launch of Birkenshaw girls' rugby teams
Rugby league community group the Birkenshaw Blue Dogs has been commended by West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin for its “life-changing" outreach work as it launches its first girls’ rugby teams.
Making history in the club’s four decades of youth rugby training and matches, Birkenshaw Blue Dogs launched its girls’ under sevens and under 13s teams in June, following increasing demand.
A founding member of East Bierley Community Sports Association, the rugby club saw a rise in interest from girls during the 2020 lockdowns as more young people missed out on physical exercise and team sports.
By spring 2021, the need was so great that the Blue Dogs' management committee agreed to take action.
Bolu Fagborun, Birkenshaw Blue Dogs sports development officer and former professional rugby player for Huddersfield, Sheffield and Nigeria, said: “During lockdown we had enquiries from daughters, sisters and other relatives who attended or supported the club and felt inspired to play the sport but didn’t have an outlet for getting involved.
"The determination of the girls to have a team of their own was so strong we pushed our resources this year, to make it happen.”
Twenty-two members of the Birkenshaw Blue Dogs girls’ under 7s and under 13s teams now train every week and are already playing competitive matches with the aim of entering the under 13s regional league in 2022.
Now, Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin, who has pledged her continued commitment to celebrating and promoting positive youth engagement across the region, has spoken out in support of the club.
“I’m incredibly proud of the Birkenshaw Blue Dogs for launching their first ever girls’ rugby teams," she said.
"The recent outreach and expansion of the East Bierley Community Sports Association is amazing to see and a lesson to us all in the importance of community spirit and pulling together during the pandemic.”
She added: “But it’s the positive impact on the girls themselves that should be celebrated most.
"From the athleticism of the sport to the camaraderie of playing in a team, these young women will emerge from the pandemic fitter, healthier and more confident than ever and better able to navigate the opportunities and challenges that life may throw at them.”
Birkenshaw Blue Dogs is now looking for a permanent coach for the girls’ teams and continuing its quest to secure additional sponsorship to support its work in the community.
“While we do have plans to expand the club’s facilities and widen the reach of our resources, we’re currently working with limited funds, which is why we’re looking for more sponsorship," Bolu said.
“Key to the success and the experiences of all the young players we support is more funding to improve our pitch, sustain our growth and increase players’ opportunities for meeting, watching and being inspired by others.
"By bringing new sponsors on board, we can fulfil the girls’ dream of entering the under 13s league next year.”
Mary Turpin, 12, who was inspired after watching her brother play for the Birkenshaw Blue Dogs, added: “I started out playing with the boys’ under-sevens but was really pleased when the club started the girls’ teams.
"I’ve already made loads of friends and we’re all really proud that we’re part of the first ever Birkenshaw Blue Dogs girls’ teams. I’m learning more and improving my skills each week and it’s been great to feel active again after lockdown.”
She added: “I’d recommend it to anyone, no matter what their age or experience. Blue Dogs is a club for life and there’s a great sense of family here.”
For information on the team training and joining protocols, visit https://www.pitchero.com/clubs/birkenshawrugby, https://www.ebcsa.co.uk or telephone 07939 382758.