Pressure mounts to allow girl to play after being barred from 1st XV rugby team

A Hawke's Bay girl was told she could only play in a girl's sevens team instead of her 1st XV.
A Hawke's Bay girl was told she could only play in a girl's sevens team instead of her 1st XV. Photo credit: Getty

Pressure is mounting on Hawke's Bay schools to let an 11-year-old girl play in her school's 1st XV rugby team.

Five principals from the district aren't letting Briar Hales, from Havelock North Intermediate, play for the 1st XV at an annual 'Super Six' school tournament, instead being told she could only play in the girl's sevens team.

The story has grabbed nationwide attention, and even the Government has weighed in; Sports Minister Grant Robertson saying she should be allowed to play.

The father of the girl, Dean Hales, said he couldn't believe the Sports Minister spoke out in support of his daughter.

Dean told Newshub Briar's male teammates want her to compete with them, and are vowing to play regardless.

"She's pretty gutted," he said. "I actually had to tell her twice - she didn't really believe me the first time.

"Obviously this isn't what we expected."

A joint statement to Newshub from the Hawke's Bay intermediate school principals said current structures state girls play in girls' tournaments, and boys play in boys' tournaments.

"The sports committee for the six schools are not opposed to making changes to the sports structures, however teams have been formed and the competition is underway.

"While we fully understand the perspective of the family involved, we are mindful of being fair to all students participating in the competition in supporting the rules under which the 2019 season was established.

"This issue will be discussed at the end of the year."

Hawke's Bay Rugby chief executive Jay Campbell said its policy was that males and females could play together in mixed gender games up to under-13 level.

"While it would be fantastic if all tournaments aligned with our policy, we respect the decision of the schools which I am sure they are making for what they perceive to be in the best interests of the tournament," he said in a statement to Newshub.

"My hope is this unfortunate experience doesn't put Briar off wanting to continue playing and enjoying her rugby."