Grace O’Malley: NDA’s Only Female Rugby Player


Ashley Lemens, Staff Writer, Journalism I

“The sport has really changed my life,” said Notre Dame Academy junior Grace O’Malley. “I want to play this sport for as long as I can.”

At the start of her sophomore year, O’Malley decided to try rugby.

“My dad, who’s from Ireland, had played rugby when he was a teenager,” O’Malley said. “My friend Maggie’s boyfriend’s younger sister got me to try out for the sport.”

Rugby is very much a mix of three different sports. It can best be described as a blend of the contact of American football without the pads, the speed of soccer and the transition of basketball.

It is played with 15 players per team on the field, seven of the players in the forward position, and the object of the game is to run with an oval ball across the opponent’s goal line or kick it through the upper part of the goal posts.

Just like football, O’Malley’s rugby team plays once a week, usually on Saturday mornings.

“My son always thought that playing once a week was special when he played football,” said Carolyn Brown.

With most players wearing no helmets, it can get pretty physical considering players are allowed to tackle like football does.

“I wear a helmet for materialistic reasons,” O’Malley said. “I don’t want to end up with cauliflower ear.”

O’Malley plays for the Pulaski Flyers in Pulaski. She plays one of the forward positions on the team. The team consists of 18 girls from all around the area with the majority from Pulaski.

Her coach, Fran Brunette, has been very impressed with her abilities to play the game.

“Grace O’Malley has been a surprise. She’s really stepped up,” said Brunette. At the recent team banquet the NDA player received the Best Forward Award.

Rugby is a club sport, not a WIAA (Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association) sport, meaning they do not have to follow any of the WIAA rules about academics and disciplinary restrictions.

“I try to get girls to come and play,” O’Malley explained. “I try to make it fun. It is a no-cut team.”

The Flyers is a club team composed of girls from Ashwaubenon, East De Pere, Preble, Pulaski, the Oneida Nation Schools and Notre Dame.

Despite coming from different area high schools team members are close with each other.

“We have a lot of team bonding,” O’Malley said. “I could never imagine leaving this team.”

After high school, O’Malley would like to attend Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut, and continue playing the sport.

“We try to push each other and not talk about school,” said O’Malley. “Rugby is kind of like a stress reliever for us.”