AT just 13-years-old, South Lake’s Grace McFillin is already a young pioneer for women in a sport largely associated with men.
Watching her brothers run around the rugby field at the age of three, it was not long before she was eager to be out there doing the same.
But all-female teams are rare in WA and Grace has had to ply her trade with the boys at Nedlands Junior Rugby Union Club for most of her young life.
She was one of only two girls chosen for the School Sport WA Under-12s rugby league team in 2015 and just a few months later became the only girl to join Nedlands Under-11s on a tour to Singapore for the annual Centaurs International Tournament, which they won.
Last year she was the only girl to make the SSWA Under-12s rugby league team as well as playing for the Under-12s girls’ touch football team.
A member of the inaugural Under-14 Girls Rugby 7s competition, where she was part of another championship winning team, Grace said 7s had become her favourite form of the sport and she loved being a part of a female-only competition.
“I loved being able to play against just girls for the first time in a regular comp and it was really tough too,” she said.
“We worked really hard all season and I think that’s why we won the comp because we all worked so hard in training and getting fit.”
Nominated for Community Newspaper Group’s Local Sports Star awards, Grace said she loved everything about rugby and encouraged other girls to try it.
“I love the aggressiveness of the game, I think people think it’s a bit weird for girls to say that but it’s true and I think the girls’ games are tougher than the boys too,” she said.
“Some people don’t think rugby is for girls but if we get more girls playing it we can prove all of them wrong and make them see that rugby is everyone’s sport.
“I’m aiming for Commonwealth Games selection in a few years and after that I want to make it to the Olympics.
“My dream is to play for the Pearls in the Olympics and go on the world tour and to do it with some of my best friends I just think that would make it really special.”
Local Sports Star
Name: Grace McFillin
Sport: Rugby League/Union & Touch Football
Category: Junior Sports Star-Individual
To nominate, visit www.localsportsstars.com.au
-SSWA U12s Rugby League team (2015, 2016)
-SSWA U12s Touch Football team (2015, 2016)
-Centaurs International Tournament champion (2015)
-2016 Nedlands Club Junior Player of the Year
-State Girls 7s team (2017)
-Total Grand Final wins: 15