Rugby World Cup 2027 bid: A win for the women's game to sustain the boom

Thu, 17/06/2021, 08:10 am
Jim Tucker
by Jim Tucker
Annabelle Codey is preparing for her Queensland debut at lock. Photo: QRU/Brenden Hertel

ANNABELLE Codey has a hotline into the boardroom at Rugby Australia to make sure the boom in women’s rugby benefits from the Rugby World Cup 2027 bid.

It’s a call she doesn’t feel she’ll have to make because RA’s new president has seen the passion for women’s rugby take off in his own home.

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Her father, David Codey, is a staunch advocate for the women’s game and a convert from the blokey 1980s era when he played 13 Tests and the inaugural World Cup.  

Annabelle, 24, is preparing for her Queensland debut at lock in Saturday’s scene-setting showdown against the NSW Waratahs in the opening round of Super W.

She is savouring it even more because the 1.30pm kick-off is at Bottomley Park where her premiership-winning Easts’ side trains and plays.

The vibrant 1.83m forward is a perfect summation of how far women’s rugby has come.

There was no rugby played at her Brisbane school, Somerville House, when she graduated in 2014, no women’s rugby to watch on TV and no Super W. Unsurprisingly, she had never played the game.

'What a wonderful opportunity'

She found her way into the game from touch at 18 and has been so taken by it she helped form the Easts’ women’s side last year.

“Dad and I always bonded over rugby but I was one of those girls who didn’t really know that women played the game because there was no visibility,” Codey said.

“My old school now plays sevens, you can watch Super W and the Wallaroos on TV, you can appreciate some great players and the women’s game keeps growing all the time.

“The sevens girls winning the Olympic gold in Rio in 2016 was a ‘kaboom’ moment in the way it showcased women in rugby and their skills.

“It was such a turning point.”

Game On for Rugby World Cup on home soil

The new RA president said that a winning bid for Rugby World Cup 2027 would nourish all rugby in Australia, male and female.

“That doesn’t just mean post-2027 it means in the years leading up to the tournament as well with the higher profile that can drive participation,” the now silver-haired David Codey said.  

“Governments will be asked to support the RWC bid and what follows. Strongly supporting the women’s game is incredibly important for RA and developing the right pathways.

“The improvement in the women’s game has been breathtaking over the past three or four years and I’ve seen that with my own eyes from the sideline.

"My wife and I did suggest to Annabelle she could play any sport she wanted and pointed to netball, basketball, water polo and whatever. She chose rugby and the camaraderie she's found at club level is unlike anything she's found elsewhere. We are incredibly proud.  

“I watched an Easts-Sunnybank women’s game recently and the crispness and precision was excellent which is something I might not have said a few seasons ago.”

Codey played in the first World Cup in 1987 when his dynamic try-scoring cameo off the bench at Sydney’s Concord Oval almost swung the classic semi-final which was lost to France, 30-24.

Super W launch

It’s still staggering to comprehend a ground in Sydney's suburbs was nowhere near full that day with just 17,768 fans attending.

“Ask any of the players involved and no one had any idea of what the Rugby World Cup would become,” Codey said.

“I thought it was nice to be playing different countries and having a knock-out section but I had no vision of the future or the legacies for the game.”

Only Sydney and Brisbane hosted games during the 1987 World Cup. In 2003, the footprint spread to 11 venues across the country. 

“We saw the wonderful success of the second tournament hosted across Australia in 2003,” Codey said.

“RA will be pulling out all stops to win the bid to host the 2027 tournament.

“The momentum built towards such an event is great for the code too. As a country, we have all the infrastructure and, as a code, it would ensure a very bright future for rugby for both men and women.”

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Annabelle wants that bright future to start on Saturday when the Reds’ women will be striving to end their 0-5 record against the Waratahs in Super W.

That ledger belies what these tense interstate spectacles have meant to elevating Super W because the last four of those games have been decided by three points.

“It’s always been really exciting watching these games. We’ve never been able to pip them...we want to beat them. It’s Queensland’s time at home,” she said.

The Queenslanders will start as underdogs. New skipper Cobie-Jane Morgan and vice-captain Lucy Lockhart are two experienced heads in charge but the Reds are undergoing a major rebuild.  

Annabelle doesn’t just credit her father for her rugby genes.

“I’ve inherited dad’s height, his aggression and attitude to never give up but I owe mum (Jennifer) for teaching me to be level-headed and patient which weren’t two of his strong traits,” Annabelle said.

She's also inherited an old, green drawstring kitbag from the 1980s which is still in use today. 

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