• Louise Burrows (r) and Sharni Williams (Getty) (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
A New Zealand tour, a Bledisloe Cup curtain raiser, and a new sponsor add up to a Huge Deal for the Wallaroos. But there's still a way to go. That's why the Wallaroos' new sponsor has kicked off a fundraising campaign.
Jill Scanlon

23 Jun 2016 - 5:05 PM  UPDATED 23 Jun 2016 - 5:06 PM

Surviving on the smell of an oily rag

Buildcorp joined with the ARU in Sydney last Wednesday to announce it will be the new naming rights sponsor of the Wallaroos. While the declaration of a new sponsor may not seem extraordinary in the world of sport, the implications and ramifications of this particular one will be felt for years to come.

Major sponsor and two-test series coup for Australian Women's Rugby XVs
For the first time ever, the Wallaroos will run on to New Zealand's spiritual home of rugby Eden Park for a two-test series, with naming rights sponsor emblazoned on their chests.

Australia’s Women’s rugby XVs team has long survived on the smell of the proverbial oily rag with players funding their own development and training path. The injection of any funding for the team, and for women’s rugby as a collective, is the first step in a very long but worthwhile climb to the top.

Josephine Sukkar, Buildcorp principal and president of Australian Women’s Rugby said “Women’s rugby isn’t a big hit on the Australian radar.” And she’s right.

While both men's and women's rugby 7s has had virtually no profile across the domestic sporting landscape until recently, XVs rugby is one of the cornerstones of Australian sporting history with awareness and support of the Wallabies right up there with the Aussie cricket team and the Socceroos for representing a nation’s pride in the ‘green and gold’.

But for women playing the same format, the Wallaroos team is unknown despite contesting five Rugby World Cups. This team’s time in the sunshine is long overdue.

The Buildcorp sponsorship of the Wallaroos and the Women’s National Championship, is the first major step in the development and promotion of the women’s game overall. It will also be a catalyst for a dedicated new journey on the road to 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup in Ireland, just 14 months away. 

Sponsoring women's rugby and sport just makes good business sense

For Josephine Sukkar, this sponsorship is not just about supporting women’s rugby, it’s a good business decision.

She firmly believes sponsorship of women’s sport makes good commercial sense and is keen to spread the word among Corporate Australia to that effect.

“The return we’ve found at Buildcorp for our investment in women’s rugby is that you don’t need to invest very much money to get a very big return,” she told Zela.

Acknowledging the ARU “has a lot on its plate” in this Olympic year as it looks to capitalise on the growing interest in 7s, Ms Sukkar is taking a pro-active stance in her role as president. As she sees it, Buildcorp is not only investing in the national team and the annual championship, it's creating the foundations for increased competition at an international level and thereby forging a pathway to success for the Wallaroos.

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As part of last week's revelations, an announcement was made of a two-Test series against New Zealand, the first of which will take place at the home of Kiwi rugby – the iconic Eden Park. Not only will the Wallaroos play the Black Ferns but the match will be part of a double-header – the curtain raiser to a Wallabies/All Blacks Test on October 22.

“I’m so excited the Wallaroos are going to get the chance to tour New Zealand, which is a great first step,” said Sukkar.

Buildcorp throws out challenge to business to give to $200k fundraising campaign 

However, for this particular business woman the plans do not stop there. Josephine Sukkar has already begun a campaign to fund an inaugural Wallaroos tour to the northern hemisphere in preparation for the World Cup.

“They’re going to Ireland, so we want them to have a northern hemisphere tour (first). So I’m kick-starting a campaign where I’m trying to raise two hundred thousand to give to the ARU.”

“We, as sponsors, have got to stand shoulder to shoulder with them. I’ll start this with the first ten thousand (and) I’m asking for ten thousand increments from businesses, individuals, corporates – anybody who wants to invest in this women’s team and in particular women in sport, so they can have a northern hemisphere tour,” she said.

In contrast to the teams half a world away, the Wallaroos have minimal opportunity to participate in consistent test-match quality games. So, with the World Cup looming this recognition of the need for financial support and of the need to raise the team’s profile is a welcome boost for both the squad and the ARU.

“I have seen firsthand the hard work and dedication these inspirational athletes put into their game and their team. Nothing makes Buildcorp prouder than to support the Wallaroos as they begin their crucial preparations for the 2017 World Cup,” Ms Sukkar said at the announcement.

The enthusiasm with which Josephine Sukkar speaks of this initiative, and the women’s rugby campaign overall, is impressive but she points out it has been as simple as sitting down with players and discussing the issues that affect them and their ability to play the game they love and to then discern the best way in which to address those issues.

“One of the things I began to understand as I came into this role as president from just sitting and talking to the girls, is they are trained and fit but just don’t have opportunities to play.

"So if as part of this role I can help these girls then I will. Ten thousand is not a very big (corporate) commitment,” she said pointing out that the broad investment in rugby both she and her husband have made through Buildcorp over the years has worked and that it is now time to give the same opportunity to the women’s game in an effort to see it thrive.

“They fly under the radar doing such great work and it’s not until somebody brings it to your attention that you then embed yourself in the team and take the opportunity to find out what isn’t happening.

“What I’m hoping for is that by our example - by our sponsorship of club rugby, the NRC and now the Wallaroos - is that other organisations will see what benefits we gain in association with women’s rugby,” said Sukkar.

“This sponsorship is just the start and we urge other businesses to commit to investing in women and growing the game. Through our shared investment, we can all help to develop stronger players, teams and leaders in rugby, business and our communities,” she stated.

The reaction

Australian 7s and Wallaroos player Shannon Parry was present at the announcement with some of her Wallaroos team mates and agreed with Josephine Sukkar’s sentiments.

“It’s a massive step forward for women’s rugby and for XVs in Australia; and you can’t thank Tony and Josephine enough for showing their support and their investment in women’s rugby – not only in grassroots but in supporting the national XVs and taking on the sponsorship of the Wallaroos going forward. It’s very exciting and to be associated with such a good company: it’s a massive step for women’s rugby in Australia,” said Parry.

Sukkar also credited both Parry and team mate Sharni Williams for their leadership, acting as role models for all women both in rugby and in women’s sport generally.

Parry acknowledges that a definite part of her role is to lead by example and to leave a legacy for the next generation of girls.

“Sharni and myself are always about being role models for the youngsters coming up through the ranks and those future generations. We want to be known as leaving a legacy almost so that they look up to us - to be remembered for playing for the Wallaroos and for the Sevens program.

The response to the announcement was widespread and positive. 

The first step  

The first step on the new pathway for Australian women's rugby
This weekend is the Buildcorp National Women’s XVs Championship and will be the first step on the new road for Australian Women’s rugby following the recent announcement of the two year sponsorship of the tournament.

The journey begins this weekend when the newly named 2016 Buildcorp National Women’s XV Championships kick off on Friday at St. Ignatius College in Riverview, Sydney.

Eight teams from across Australia, including the Australian Defence Force team, will do battle over three days – not just for the title on offer - but for the chance to impress Wallaroos coach Paul Verrell who will be there casting a keen eye over all the national talent as he ponders what the Wallaroos will look like as they move into a new and exciting era.

8.30am Sydney v ADFRU 
9.30am WA v Victoria
10.30am, QLD v NSW Country
11.30am, ACT v SA
1.00pm, Sydney v Victoria
2.00pm, WA v ADFRU
3.00pm, ACT v NSW Country
4.00pm, QLD v SA

9.30am, Victoria v ADFRU
11.00am, NSW Country v SA
12.30pm, Sydney v WA
2.00pm, ACT v QLD

8.30am, 4th Pool A v 4th Pool B
9.45am, 3rd Pool A v 3rd Pool B
11.00am, 2nd Pool A v 2nd Pool B
12.15pm, 1st Pool A v 1st Pool B