In an effort to build the profile of their sport, shatter stereotypes and lend a little support to charity, Canada’s national women rugby players are baring it all.
It is the fourth time Canada’s rugby women have stripped down for a calendar shoot in an effort to promote positive body images and show the results of training hard, working hard and living a healthy lifestyle. Proceeds from the calendar will be used to support the women’s program as they prepare for the World Cup and 2016 Olympic qualifiers.
“Every woman on this team works so hard at being physically fit and eating properly, it is a reward to have these pictures taken so we can see our bodies in a beautiful light,” says Barbara Mervin, a flanker on the 15s squad and forward on the 7s who is spearheading this year’s calendar effort.
“Playing in such a rough sport, we sometimes lose the beauty that is in it. We hear all the time that we don’t look like rugby players, so there is clearly a stereotype about what women rugby players should look like. But having muscles is very beautiful and being physically fit is very attractive. We are elite athletes and we are proud of our bodies.”
The 16-month 2013 calendar, which can be ordered online at http://nswtcalendar.com/, features 17 members of the Canadian women’s rugby team, all of whom are carded members and have relocated from their homes across the country to Vancouver Island to live, work and train. The team has tried traditional fundraisers in the past — selling chocolate bars or T-shirts and searching for sponsors — but they have found the calendar is by far the most successful.
The calendar will also help build the profile of one of Canada’s more successful national sport programs. The women’s 7s team is coming off an impressive championship at the 2012 Amsterdam 7s tournament in May, putting the team in a strong position to qualify for the sport’s Olympic debut in Rio de Janeiro in four years.
“We are also hoping to raise some awareness about how successful our program has been,” says Mervin. “Yes, sex sells but we hope to have a stronger message about body types. We hope we can help young girls to know that you can be 170 pounds and be absolutely beautiful. We hope they can relate to someone’s body and see beauty in that. A national team athlete has enormous quads and we consider them very beautiful. There is beauty in the athletic body, and that is what we have tried to capture with the images.”
Canada’s rugby women first doffed their clothes for a calendar shoot in 2004, the brainchild of former national team player Colette McAuley. While the proceeds help support a fledgling program, McAuley says the calendar effort is more notable for showcasing the lean, muscular bodies of Canada’s female rugby players and transforming the stereotypical image of women who play sports.
“With the growth of the 7s game, you are seeing women with a very athletic body type,” she says. “These calendars show another side of the rugby player. The uniforms and jerseys we wear are not very flattering to the female athletes, who are strong and muscular and beautiful. The women in the Canadian program are very attractive. This year’s calendar has a wow factor, plus a very sexy factor. It’s fantastic.”
For sneak peeks and more information, follow the Women of Rugby Calendar on Twitter @NWST_Calendar, join the conversation with the hashtag #wrugby and Like it on Facebook.