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Feature: Trail-blazing Kendal Ladies Wasps in the mood to soar
ONE never gets a second chance to make a first impression but as far as introductions go there is little danger of Kendal Ladies Wasps going unnoticed.
Formed in November 2012, the Mint Bridge outfit were required to complete eight friendlies before enrolling in National Conference North One.
Victory over a well-established Carlisle side in the club’s first-ever competitive fixture in April signalled their arrival but fast-forward eight months and their ascent is even more significant.
Kendal currently lie second in the league table level on points with Ormskirk Ladies – who they beat 20-19 on the opening day of the season – with four wins from five matches.
As well as the West Lancashire side, the Black and Ambers have dispatched Southport, Chester Devas and Leigh, with a narrow 12-10 home defeat to Sunderland the only blot on the copybook.
And while the good times have come quicker than initially envisaged, vice-captain and tight-head prop Emma Grunnill recognises the seeds of success were perhaps sown early on.
“We didn’t know what to expect going into that first friendly against Carlisle as not one of the girls had played properly in a team before,” she said.
“So when we beat a side who had been in the league for ages that was a real boost and set us up perfectly to push on.
“We then played Preston Grasshoppers, only losing by three points, and they were amazed how far we had come and actually wrote to the Rugby Football Union on our behalf saying we need league rugby.
“Our start has been amazing although I don’t think anyone would have thought we would win four out of five and I think our aims for the season have changed as a consequence.
“We’re all ambitious girls so when we go into a game we want to win and want to come out top of the league if we can.
“Our coaches give us six-month plans but we seem to pick them up in six weeks and those are the goals we set ourselves.”
While Kendal’s rise has been meteoric, looking at the immediate future there are still issues which need addressing as the club continues to strive for improvement.
With the side thrown into the limelight thanks to a ‘topless’ calendar to celebrate their first anniversary, Wasps team manager Gillian Bland has a firm eye on squad strengthening.
“We still haven’t really competed with a full side – we tend to have 13 or 14,” she added.
“Numbers in terms of getting a team out are a slight problem but not in terms of involvement, on our first night we had 12 and have grown from there, we’ve had about 60 in total try it.
“It’s just getting all the girls to be available on the same day and it’s not because they don’t want to be there, it’s a case of work and family commitments.
“Our aim is to keep encouraging new girls to come in, it would be nice to have a squad of 30 and then a strong matchday squad of 16 or 18 on a Sunday.
“At the moment we have one to two new girls each week and that is down to the calendar and the publicity – we wanted to show you don’t have to be an animal to play rugby!
“We once had a girl come to training on a Wednesday who hadn’t touched a rugby ball before and went on to play a game on the Sunday, immediately feeling part of the team – we have a very welcoming environment.”
The latest addition to the Kendal backroom staff is assistant coach Arthur Perie, the latest in a long line who considers the Wasps’ star to shine brightly.
“The progression has been enormous on the playing front, considering the club was formed halfway through a season in effect,” he said.
“From my point of view, I have worked with junior rugby and senior rugby on a coaching level and the attitude in this squad is amazing and refreshing.
“Their desire and ability to take things in and learn is brilliant and the club is continuously looking to progress both on and off the pitch and that can only be a positive going forward.”
*Kendal Ladies Wasps training sessions take place every Monday from 7pm with all levels of fitness, ability and age ranges (over 18) welcome.
Interested individuals should turn up on a Monday at Kendal Rugby Club and ask for Gillian, Abby or Emma or text/ring Gillian on 07843 093 119.
Copies of the club’s commemorative calendar, with proceeds going to North West Air Ambulance, are available from Kendal Rugby Club, The Riverside Hotel or Castle Green Hotel priced at £8.
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