Nolli Waterman will ‘never settle down’ until women’s rugby is given the respect it deserves | UK News
England rugby legend Nolli Waterman says the women’s Six Nations have been boosted by huge waves of new fans – but need to become ‘more competitive’ going forward.
The tournament, which runs until the end of April, came after an exciting game World Cup final last year.
England’s Red Roses lost to New Zealand’s Black Ferns in a heartbreakingly close defeat.
A record-breaking crowd of 42,579 witnessed the final performance at Eden Park, while millions around the world watched from the comfort of their own homes.
Thousands then prepared to support the Red Roses as they turned to this year’s Women’s Six Nations.
Nolli Waterman, a gamer-turned-expert, says it’s an “exciting” new chapter in the game.
The 38-year-old, who highlights the Guinness Never Settle programme, has been a tireless champion of women’s football for years.
Seeing success pay off and a new generation of players enjoying a different level of women’s rugby has been nothing short of inspirational for the rugby legend.
Nolli tells Metro.co.uk: “One of the best things about this tournament is the fact that you can feel the ripple effect of last year’s World Cup.
“Wales is a great example of that, they’ve had a record crowd, a couple of wins, a sell-out game against England – it’s incredible.
“Players will really feel the energy of this larger crowd. From a media point of view, the broadcast images of full stadiums are also very important for visibility.
“And it’s a diverse audience, which means viewers can see what they look like and who they relate to — which is part of the next step in expanding the audience even further.”
While the dynamic behind women’s rugby is reassuring, there is still a noticeable disconnect between the resources available to teams.
Much has already been accomplished, but Nolli says there is still “a long way to go”.
During her gaming career, Nolli had to pay to play, spend her own money on shoes, and struggle into her gear in tiny toilet stalls before games.
While some areas of women’s football have improved, discussions about players’ contracts, maternity leave and equal pay still dominate the headlines.
Just this week an Irish official reported to have said “who cares about women’s rugby” during a board meeting.
Nolli hopes to allay such thoughts through her work with the Women’s Rugby Association and the Guinness Never Settle campaign.
The broadcaster herself received sexist backlash when she joined the ITV commentary team.
Nolli became the channel’s premier rugby commentator for the 2019 Rugby World Cup and the 2020 Six Nations Championship.
But due to online abuse, she nearly retired from the television world before realizing she had to persevere to transform her own life and the lives of others.
Now, the rugby star jokes she has “just a couple of trolls left” to contend with each month.
Nolli adds: “I remember our first media training session before the 2010 World Cup, when it was actually all about Facebook. We were told to make our profiles private in case there are any pics from university days and such!
“But if you look at the average age of the current England squad today when things are very different, they grew up on social media.
“The girls are very aware of the positive impact and know it’s a great way to interact with fans and celebrate what we’re doing.
“Unfortunately, the negative side of social media is really quite toxic. But I hope they have all the support from their unions when they need it and on a personal level feel they can turn to them if they are concerned.”
Nolli is committed to making sure players feel supported throughout the game’s development.
That includes progress on and off the pitch.
A mammoth effort was once made to create and update Wikipedia entries for gamers.
This made match coverage more accessible and viewers could be proud of those from their area, hometown or even universities. It also built on work to improve sponsorship for women’s football.
The call for games like the Women’s Six Nations to be shown in pubs was also an important factor in increasing visibility.
There is also now dedicated legal support for players through the Women’s Rugby Association for contracts or general legal advice on often jargon-filled papers.
Coaches are still predominantly male and Nolli is determined to encourage more women to have the confidence to champion higher roles throughout the women’s rugby ecosystem.
She added: “I’m really so passionate about this, I absolutely love the work I do with Guinness around their ‘Never Settle’ campaign.
“I think realistically that five years from now we’re going to have a very exciting future ahead of us.
“England are hosting the 2025 Rugby World Cup and there will be a lot of interest in it. It will help increase wildlife in the northern hemisphere, which is really important.
“I also hope that the Six Nations are not so dominated by the English and the French.
“Overall, it would be nice if all unions saw a little more competition. We’re seeing progress on contracts and the treatment of players.
“It has all taken time, it has taken a long time to get to this stage and there is still a long way to go.
“But I think ours [England’s] Success at the 2014 Women’s World Cup helped a lot and not being there again in 2017 was tough.
“The girls not getting their gold last year was difficult too, but we all witnessed the story behind the magic of New Zealand’s win.
“This momentum that women’s rugby has is going to be difficult to slow down now, I’m excited for what’s to come.”
You can support women’s rugby by watching matches, following your grassroots team and engaging positively with players on social media.
Follow Nolli on-line or via the Try Hards Podcast.
Metro spoke to Nolli as part of their work with Guinness as the brand continues on its mission to make rugby a place where everyone can belong. Read more about the Never Settle program by clicking here.
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