Nyree Dunn is our 5th and final Influential Female to round out our celebrations of 25 years since the Women’s Competition started in Southern Inland back in 1997.
Nyree has been a SIRU Volunteer of the Year (2019), recently made a Life Member of the Leeton Phantoms, and has filled almost every volunteer role for both the Senior and Junior Phantoms as well as playing for the Dianas up until recently.
Nyree grew up in Broken Hill, where other football codes were common, but not for Girls. When she moved to Canberra for University she was first exposed playing for Norths (now known as Uni-Norths). Only knowing that you couldn’t pass forward, Nyree took to the field focussed on two things, catching, and running.
Her partner brought her back to Leeton as the Dianas were starting out, where she played a few games when it suited in 1998. Nyree got a full season with the Dianas in 1999 after moving to Leeton, with most memories being the off-field events, bus trips and dress ups.
Nyree noted the interesting rule set back in 1997 when the comp started, with Women’s only allowed to wear sneakers, no studded Football Boots allowed! Often the Women’s Representative team was an after-thought to the Men’s, with hand-me-down or alternate kit used for the Women.
The representative teams of today certainly owe a lot of thanks to the players of the 1990’s who trailblazed the competition and programs into where they are now.
The support both in Clubs and Schools has come a long way, with multiple opportunities for all players regardless of gender.
To see the game continue to grow, Nyree believes a focus on the grass roots is of the upmost importance, and continue promoting that Rugby is a game for everyone. Continuing to improve our female representative programs to be equal to our men’s is also important, and it seems that all Zones or similar are doing so.
Nyree is particularly excited by the opportunities being offered to Junior Females, with programs such as Brumbies Country, Brumbies U18s and hopefully Super W one day.
Nyree would like to see the Women’s Comp moved to XVs where it initially started, even if some weeks teams didn’t have numbers, everyone will do their best to make it work much like back in the early years of the competition (Dianas won a historic game in Hillston with 8 on 15, unheard of in this day and age). XVs is truly designed for all shapes and sizes, whilst 7s and 10s still limit the desired build of the players.Similar in Juniors, hopefully it can move to 10-a-side soon to include more players, and then from there look to XVs.
“The last thing I’ll say is that I’m so grateful for rugby coming into my life 25 years ago. I cherish the friendships I’ve made, the opportunities I’ve been given and the fun times I’ve had as part of the Phantoms Phamily as well as the wider rugby family. Although I’m a bit past playing in SIRU again I still love going to training and trying to encourage and support more girls coming through rugby to love the game, on and off the field, as much as I do. I’m also really looking forward to pulling on the boots in the Golden Oldies Competition during March 2023 in Perth. It proves you are never too old to play rugby. Any women and guys over 35 keen have a run as part of the Phantom Phossils and Derelict Dianas please go to the Phantom Phossils facebook page for more details.”
Total Ag Solutions-Kubota 1st Grade
SIRU Women's Xs
Sarah Houston lives on a small property outside of Hay. With what started as a conversation with a friend and a passion for rugby became the Hay Whipper Snippers Junior Rugby Club. She is the Junior Club President, a Player, a Manager and an Uber driver to get players to each gala day.
The club was formed in 2017 with an U9s team made up of a couple of older and younger kids. Sarah’s passion and enthusiasm for the game built the little club that gave the kids in the far West of Southern Inland an opportunity to connect in a team sport. In 2019 the enthusiasm reached new highs with 5 teams playing in the Southern Inland Junior Competition. Sarah had a goal to expose and create opportunities for the families who would otherwise not have the chance to play Rugby. This year they have multiple players recognised for representative opportunities.
She has mentioned that living in such rural places makes it hard to play, trainings are held on a Friday afternoon in Hay as a central spot for those kids that live on properties outside of town. Families will travel up to 600km for 80 minutes of football all because they love it.
A highlight for Sarah was in 2019 the Snippers community hosted a senior men’s night game on Saturday then a junior gala day on the Sunday. Volunteers are always light on however the parents of the players and supporters love getting involved to help.
Sarah believes “you can’t be what you can’t see”. 2022 was big step in the right direction having Saturday night Super Rugby games on free to air television. However, there can still be more promotion of these games making it easier for rural players to watch their idols.
Evelyn George has been refereeing for over 30 years. She started in 1993 in Newcastle after being inspired by the 1991 England World Cup to pick up the whistle. At the time, there were no opportunities for Women to play Rugby. In 2000, she relocated to Southern Inland
where she started playing and refereeing. Evelyn would play a full game, run up to the change rooms, grab the whistle, swap shirts, and then run on to referee a full match. She didn’t care about being the only female Match Official in the zone - she didn’t know any better and all the members loved and treated her like one of their own. The appointments were always based on skill and performance, rather than gender, and they supported both her playing ambitions and refereeing goals.
Over her 11 years in SIRU as a Match Official, Evelyn saw the Women’s game grow. The Women’s club competition was strong during the early 2000’s, although unfortunately came to a standstill in 2003. Despite this gap in the club competition, the region continued to see a rise in women lacing up the boots, with schoolgirls teams and school programs taking off.
Evelyn’s favourite rugby moments include being appointed by Rugby Australia to referee at the Central Coast 7s and Darwin’s Hottest 7s competitions. Despite her high achievements, what means the most to Evelyn is that every Saturday she gets to turn up to Rugby. The teams are happy to have her as their ref and who thank her at the end of each game for a great job. To her, that is the best part about refereeing, and she would encourage everyone to give it a go.
Below are some of her favourite pictures.
Young vs Hay (2006
Gold Coast Women's 7s (2013)
CWRU Women's GF (2016)
Country Week (2018)
Coolah vs Yeoval (2018)
Bathurst Bulldogs vs CSU Women (2019)
Total Ag Solutions-Kubota 1st Grade
SIRU Women's Xs