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Everything you need to know about Underwater Rugby

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When I first heard about Canberra Underwater Rugby, I had a lot of questions.

The most obvious being, “what is it?” A cursory glance on their Facebook page had me intrigued: “a team sport played entirely underwater with snorkels, masks, and flippers” it read. “Imagine quidditch underwater, or wrestling in outer space.”

Recently, Canberra Underwater Rugby received a grant for the 2019 Women’s Sport and Recreation Participation and Leadership Program. With the club firmly back on my radar, I took this as an opportunity to quiz Club President Nicolette Mark on what exactly Underwater Rugby (UWR) involves, and how Canberra women can get involved.

First things first, what actually is UWR?

UWR is a 3D, full contact, awesome sport that almost anyone can play! We use a round ball that’s filled with salt water, which means that it’s heavier than the water that we play in, and we have baskets on the bottom of the pool to score in. There are six players on each team in the water at once, but you can have up to 12 per team playing: six in the water and six reserves who sub in when players need to breathe. There are three positions and two players in each position: attacker, defender, and goalie.

Where is it played?

We play in dive pools, or special deep pools that range from three to five metres deep, and we use the whole space.

Does that mean you have to be able to hold your breath for minutes on end?

You don’t actually need to hold your breath for that long! We cycle in pairs, so we’re normally only under the water for 15-20 seconds at a time. The only time a longer breath hold is needed is for a penalty shot, where the defender may need to stay under the water at the goal for 45 seconds, but this isn’t a common occurrence.

Is UWR suitable for beginners?

To begin playing UWR, you don’t really need any skills. It does help if you already know how to swim, but we’ve had people join before who’d never sum a 100-metre length, we just take everything one step at a time and build skills. Some people come from underwater hockey or freediving, and they slot right in with the breath holding skills but have to relearn many other things.

Do many women in Canberra play UWR?

The participation of women in Canberra hasn’t been ideal over the six years we’ve been a club, fluctuating between one and six regulars. However, we are currently running a beginners course, and 9 of the people that signed up are women, which is over half! 

What’s the community like?

Everyone is respectful, caring, and willing to teach you anything you want to know. Last year I travelled for three months around Europe, playing in UWR tournaments and crashing on other players couches/floors and it was a wonderful experience. You have an instant community anywhere you go, and the people are always so generous.

What would you say to women who are interested in giving it a go?

I say, don’t take the videos you see online too seriously! The sports people you see on TV don’t start out at that level, they start off small and learn skills to become the impressive players that they are. We’re a very sociable club, so feel free to hang out with us above the water and ask a few questions before you take the plunge.

How does the Club feel about receiving the 2019 Women’s Sport and Recreation Participation and Leadership Program grant?

We were so excited! We’re continually trying to grow the number of females and have a women’s team, and the grant money will help us with that. The gear and equipment we use in UWR can be quite pricey sometimes, and it’s important to make the sport affordable for everyone. We plan on using some of the funds for new women-friendly equipment and to update some of our existing gear. Women use slightly smaller balls in UWR, and we only have one in that size at the moment, so I’m excited to get more female-friendly balls to practice with. By purchasing gear that’s specific to women, we can make sure that they don’t start the sport facing any hurdles and have equal opportunity to grow to love the game.

How can women get involved in UWR?

By messaging our club via Facebook or Instagram, or by coming to our events!

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