In a double coup for Australian women's rugby, the Buildcorp group today announced its naming rights sponsorship of the Wallaroos and the Women's National XV Championships, as the Australian XV side is set to play the Black Ferns in a two-test series.
Both announcements were made today but neither moment has ever happened before in Australian women's rugby.
The upcoming National XV Championship will be held from 24-26 June, at Riverview, Sydney.
The first game of the two-test series against the Ferns will form a historic Bledisloe Cup double-header on 22 October.
“I started off playing fifteen-a-side rugby when it basically had no national profile at all," Australian Women's 7s captain Sharni Williams said at the announcement.
"Now, with the Buildcorp Women’s National XVs Championships, girls can get out there and impress selectors and put themselves on a pathway towards representing their country in the Buildcorp Wallaroos team," she said.
“Playing New Zealand, in 7s and XVs, is always a tough battle, but running out on the field at Eden Park will be amazing for all the women who get that opportunity.”
“The Wallaroos will be truly tested on this tour with two tests against New Zealand,” the ARU high performance manager Ben Whitaker agreed.
“And by committing to hosting the Women’s National XVs Championship every year and with more Wallaroos camps, we are looking to build the strongest Australian squad possible for 2017,” Whitaker said.
For ARU CEO Bill Pulver, today's announcement is all about backing up a core strategic focus.
"By 2020, we want 15% of all Australian rugby players to be female. With Buildcorp’s support, we will harness the momentum (of women's rugby globally) to ensure there is a place in our rugby community for all girls and women around Australia.”
Buildcorp's long term love affair with rugby
Tony and Josephine Sukkar have sponsored university rugby since they founded construction company Buildcorp 25 years ago. In recent years, Buildcorp expanded to women's university rugby sponsorship.
Ms Sukkar loves her rugby so much, she became president of Australian Women's Rugby last year.
But as a businesswoman, she sees women's sport sponsorship as a valuable return on investment as it provides brand exposure and goodwill for a significantly lower price than men's sport.
“If you are resourceful you can get a lot more return from a much lower investment with women’s sport," she told The Australian in an interview last week.
At the announcement today, she said she was excited to see the boost investment gives rugby in terms of performance.
"In our 25 years supporting grassroots rugby, we’ve seen the exponential boost investment and support gives to a team’s development and achievements. The recent Australian Women’s 7s World Series win is testament to that.
"It’s our aim to give this same opportunity to the women who want to play XVs rugby and we look forward to seeing them thrive over the next two years.
“However, this sponsorship is just the start and we urge other businesses to commit to investing in women and growing the game.”
Words from the wise
Louise Ferris, coach and former Wallaroo told Zela she also expected to see a 7s style improvement to the XVs game.
"With the announcement of a major sponsor for XVs I would expect to see similar growth and significant opportunities that are on par with our 7’s national program.
"Hopefully, it will also attract more quality athletes and staff from other sports to work on the domestic side of the game to encourage participation."
At the elite level, Ferris expects this announcement to improve the quality of Australia's game.
"A sponsor as big as Buildcorp will raise their profile, and will provide the players with greater opportunities to develop their skills and overall team structure.
"Put it this way one or no test matches over a period of four years is insufficient preparation for any team going into a world cup."
"Lets hope that in the next 2-4 years we see a rapid growth in player participation, more quality coaches available on a domestic and international level and our International standing move into the top four. Exciting times ahead!"
2016 Buildcorp Wallaroos fixtures:
The Wallaroos will play a warm up match against the Auckland XV on Tuesday 18 October. The Eden Park two-test series kicks off with the Bledisloe Cup double-header Saturday 22 October, followed by the second game on Wednesday 26 October.