Girls to Watch: Ayane Hirata

In sports, when a man scores big – it’s his hard work, when a woman scores big – it’s also ‘his’ hard work, ‘his’ being a coach. Barring Tennis, which is the most gender-equitable sport, no other sport offers equal acknowledgment to a woman. In fact, women are not only perceived as weak but are also immensely scrutinized for their coaching abilities.

Amidst strong prejudice and under-representation that women in sports are subjected to, the story of Ayane Hirata is not only inspirational but also exemplifies an unbending spirit.

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“When I was 10 years old, I saw my elder brother playing Rugby and I wanted to play too. That was actually boys’ team but I joined them. In Japan, there is no specific girls’ rugby team in primary schools, so, I had to play rugby with boys. I struggled, cried, got bullied, they thought, “I would never make it”. I left home after I turned 15 and went to high school. I spent 3 years focused on my game, after I graduated, I joined a semi-professional team for 6 months.

I was often told, “Rugby is for boys, rough and tough sport, so, girls shouldn’t get into it”. I just wanted to prove everyone that girls can play rugby too!

Looks like the stars were in my favor, I saw an ad on Facebook from the Queensland Government inviting applications for one year exchange program. It was a brilliant opportunity for me. Queensland is famous for sports, especially rugby. I got through their 2014 scholarship program that helped me pay for my expenditures and support my dream.

It wasn’t easy, I could not make friends. My English wasn’t good, it was so hard to communicate, I felt ashamed but I did not give up. I did my best all the time.
I concentrated, practiced day and night, and trained myself hard, more than anyone.

Finally, I got a chance to play halfback for Sunnybank Rugby Club and an internship at Queensland Rugby Union.”

Ayane Hirata was selected to play Half Back for the Queensland Women’s XV 2015 squad at the National Women’s XV Championships in Sydney. She also became a proud recipient of $18, 000 scholarship to study Bachelors of Sports Management at Griffith University.

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By Manvi Pant

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