Appleby reveals her Magnificent Seven
By Mark Stevens
Exeter Chiefs women’s head coach Susie Appleby has outlined an exciting vision for the future with news that the club has created it’s own apprenticeship scheme for aspiring, young players from across the region.
In a move which aims to echo the success of the club’s men’s squad, which in recent years has unearthed some fine Westcountry gems into senior rugby professionals, Appleby says the creation of the seven apprenticeship roles will be seen as a major move in helping to bolster the playing ranks for the newly-formed team.
“These are very exciting times for us,” said Appleby. “We’ve seen with the programme on the men’s side, they’ve been able to identify young, local talent at an early age, introduce them into the club’s apprenticeship scheme through Exeter College, and assist them in making it through to being in the senior squad and obtaining a playing contract.
“It’s been a breeding ground for some fantastic talent to emerge and it’s our aim to do the same now with young girls from across the region. Offering them an opportunity like this, not just to play and improve their rugby to a level where they can play at a higher standard, but to also come out of it with an academic qualification and a chance to improve their life skills and their life experience is simply fantastic.
“What we can do with these girls, both individually and collectively, is something that hasn’t been done within the women’s game before. As I said, it’s an exciting opportunity for all of us to not only only nurture some amazing, young talent, but offer them a stepping stone to really put themselves and the Chiefs on the women’s rugby map.”
It was only confirmed in April that the Chiefs Women had been accepted into the Premier 15s for the first time. Since then, Appleby has been battling around global lockdown caused by the Coronavirus pandemic to put together a competitive squad for the new 2020/21 season.
“It’s certainly not been easy,” she admitted. “We had so much in place to get the team up and running, only for lockdown to come along and put things a little on the back burner. Ideally, we had hoped to kick this apprenticeship scheme off in July, but we couldn’t and it’s only now that we’re starting to get things really moving.
“Exeter College, I have to say, have been brilliant and so pro-active in getting all the prep done for the scheme and now we can’t wait to get it all going and get working with all of the apprentices.”
The seven girls selected to be the club’s first-ever apprentices are Michaella Roberts, Abby Middlebrooke, Milla-Lynch-Barsby, Georgie Grimes, Amelia Dennis, Gabby Gower and Meg Davies.
Helping to oversee the whole apprenticeship process for Appleby will be a new Women’s Academy Manager. As yet the identity of the person filling this role has yet to be confirmed, but Appleby insists the new manager will mirror in many ways the role Rob Gibson performs on the men’s side.
“Having someone there to help nurture these young girls if hugely important,” continued Appleby. “Not only will they be there to assist in terms of their rugby development, but it’s what they can offer away from training and games which is equally as important.
“For some of these people, this could be the first time that they have been away from home, experiencing new challenges. It’s therefore vital that we have that support system in place to help and encourage them in whatever they need.
“What we are doing doesn’t happen at our clubs and I am sure there will be a bit of a ‘wow-factor’ when others get to hear about what we are doing. Personally, I hope the girls have an amazing experience and that word will spread because that is what we want to create down here.
“We want to offer the very best opportunities we can to players because ultimately that is what is going to help make us successful.”