When she was playing rugby at LeBoldus High School in Regina, Stef Evans never imagined she would one day end up playing the sport professionally overseas. But that is the case for the Regina product, who actually spent a few years away from the sport, and only picked it back up recreationally before turning it into a professional opportunity.
“It’s been a wild ride,” said Evans. “I don’t think a lot of people in any sport get the opportunity to get their first professional athletics contract when they’re in their 30s.”
“The (United Kingdom) is home to the most competitive female rugby league in the world. The rugby community for both men and women in the U.K. is so well established.”
While playing in the Women’s Premiership is not necessarily considered a full-time gig for Evans, there are 28 full-time female rugby players in the U.K., which is a number she hopes will grow.
All of the non-full-time female players are still under professional contract, but the pay varies from team to team, which means most have to carry full-time jobs on the side. As for Evans, along with coaching university rugby, she runs a clothing line called Ruggette RFC, which manufactures rugby kits and attire for females, a niche market that was largely under-represented prior to her launching the brand in 2018.
“The vast majority of (female) players even at the elite level still play in men’s kit,” said Evans. “I started the company with the intention to create well-fitting, made-for female athletes by female athletes.”
Ruggette has been successful ever since its launch. The company ships worldwide and has already delivered to 27 different countries. In fact, demand is currently higher than what they are able to supply. And while she’s had success an as entrepreneur, through Ruggette Evans is able to break down certain barriers that female rugby players face.
Evans has also been vocal on social media about the issues female players face. Just last year, she started the #icare movement, following a number of negative posts on social media about the postponement of the 2021 Women’s Six Nations.
Now, her voice is being heard in another way, as she is featured in a documentary film called “No Woman, No Try,” which was just released on Amazon Prime and aims to show the reality of being a female rugby player and the struggles that exist.
“From a women’s rugby perspective, I think it’s immensely powerful that we’re going to have something of this level of honesty and authenticity that allows people to understand why it is what we feel so strongly about what we do,” said Evans.
The film, directed by Evans’ friend Victoria Rush, also spotlights the inequality gap not just in women’s rugby in the U.K., but female sports worldwide. Evans hopes with more education and awareness of those issues, one day those barriers will cease to exist.
“For anybody who watches the film, regardless of their understanding of rugby or women’s sports in general, to just understand the things that impede us or make the experience more difficult are not issues that are isolated to rugby,” said Evans.