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In an historic moment for the Rugby Union Players' Association (RUPA), members yesterday met at RUPA's 16th Annual General Meeting held at the Crowne Plaza, Coogee and voted unanimously to amend the RUPA Constitution to expand its membership to include players from the women's national Sevens and Fifteens squads.
Since its inception in 1995, RUPA has provided its members with two main areas of support services; workplace representation and advice; and the personal and career development program, which is a joint initiative with the ARU. RUPA's Constitution until yesterday, only allowed membership for the men's Super Rugby, Sevens and Academy players.
Now players from the Australian women's national Sevens and Fifteens programs will have access to RUPA's services. The proposal to extend RUPA's membership was raised by current Wallaby Captain, David Pocock, at last year's RUPA AGM.
Greg Harris, CEO of RUPA applauded the member's decision. Shortly after the meeting he said, "This is a very significant day in the history of RUPA, and for women's rugby in Australia.'
"There is no doubt that the profile of women's rugby is constantly growing. With the ever increasing professionalism of the Sevens world tour and now with the inclusion of the Sevens in the 2016 Olympics, it is important that our national players have access to the support and representation that RUPA can provide."
The news of the motion passing was welcomed by two greats of Australian women's rugby, Cheryl Soon and Alex Hargreaves.
Soon, the Captain of the Australian team that took out the inaugural Women's Rugby World Cup Sevens title in 2009 and a recent appointment to the Rugby Committee of the International Rugby Board (IRB) said "That the players are now able to be supported as aspiring professionals by RUPA is fantastic news for all current and future female Australian Rugby representatives'.
"For RUPA to recognise Australia's female rugby representatives and to have the matter advocated by the Wallaby Captain, David Pocock, is very inspirational for the players."
Hargreaves, a veteran of over ten years as a 'Wallaroo' and Sevens representative, which included four World Cups â€“ including the successful 2009 campaign - was equally excited by the decision.
"Pursuing a playing career as a woman in rugby is extremely difficult, particularly trying to juggle a job with training commitments and travel. Having a better framework for the players' to receive appropriate entitlements and support is a significant step forward.'
"It's fantastic news that the RUPA membership is aware of the struggle that the girls go through. They really put their lives on hold to play for Australia and this decision is a positive step in promoting equality for men and women in Rugby.'
"The women's playing group is aware of the great work that RUPA has done for many years for the men's Rugby players, and we are really excited now that we are entitled to be members of RUPA" she said.
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