CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Lancashire Life today CLICK HERE

Meet the Pink Panthers - Chorley’s female rugby team

PUBLISHED: 00:00 12 August 2014

Chorley Pink Panthers

Chorley Pink Panthers


Rolling around in the mud might not be every woman’s dream, but it’s all part of the fun for the Chorley Pink Panthers. Roger Borrell reports

Nancy Gardiner, Emma-Jade Rae, Kathryn Williams, Nicola Lonsdale, Kathryn Moss, Sarah Critchley and Hannah OxleyNancy Gardiner, Emma-Jade Rae, Kathryn Williams, Nicola Lonsdale, Kathryn Moss, Sarah Critchley and Hannah Oxley

In a bygone age, the sporting snobs would trot out the old line about rugby union being a ruffian’s game played by gentlemen, while rugby league was a gentleman’s game played by ruffians.

Goodness know what they would have said about young ladies playing any kind of rugby, let alone rugby league. But I suspect the Chorley Pink Panthers don’t care much what others think – they’re too busy having fun.

(Back row) Peter Cunliffe (Coach) Nancy Gardiner, Sarah Lovejoy, Kathryn Moss, Emma-Jade Rae and Philip Robinson (Assistant Coach), (Front row) Hannah Oxley, Nicola Lonsdale, Kathryn Williams and Sarah Critchley(Back row) Peter Cunliffe (Coach) Nancy Gardiner, Sarah Lovejoy, Kathryn Moss, Emma-Jade Rae and Philip Robinson (Assistant Coach), (Front row) Hannah Oxley, Nicola Lonsdale, Kathryn Williams and Sarah Critchley

It took an age for women’s soccer to get a foothold and now those who prefer to tussle over the oval-shaped ball are hoping to follow their lead. Lancashire was, of course, one of the founding counties of the 13-man game. But the 13-woman game is gaining in popularity – it has its own governing body and a world cup competition dominated, unsurprisingly, by the Australians and New Zealanders.

The sport has a strong following among Lancashire lasses and several members of the national team are from the red rose county.

The young women who pull on the pink jerseys of Chorley are among the pioneers and they are hoping to attract more potential players for their women’s and girls’ teams that play matches at Panther Park in Coppull.

One recent recruit is Emma Jade Rae, who is 23 and comes from Whittle-le-Woods. ‘I’ve been playing for just over seven months,’ said the care assistant and student nurse. ‘I used to spend a lot of time in the gym and did a bit of boxing but I saw a tweet appealing for new players so I gave it a go.

‘I must admit I didn’t think I was going to like it, but the moment I stepped on the pitch I realised it was for me. It’s just the best thing.

‘I like the drills, I like the fact it’s high impact and you can get your aggression out on the field without anyone getting hurt. I particularly like the fact it’s fast paced.’

The Pink Panthers have been going through a lean patch recently due to a few injuries leaving the squad a little threadbare. ‘We would like more women to give it a go,’ said Emma Jade. ‘It doesn’t matter if you are a complete beginner. Not many people know we exist but I’m sure a lot of women would really enjoy it if they tried it. And it’s a great way of getting fit.

‘I don’t think a lot of men understand what it’s all about. They think it’s a game just for the boys but I don’t see why they should have all the fun.’ The women’s team, which plays in a northern league, has players from 16 to their late 30s. ‘We have all shapes and sizes,’ said Emma Jade.

There are some young women who might run for cover if asked to roll around a rugby field but not the Panthers. ‘We don’t mind getting muddy. The more rain, the better – it makes it easier to tackle. The first time I trained I got very, very muddy but it just made me laugh.’ Some men with less than clear views on equality might claim that women are not so proficient when it comes to catching and throwing a ball. Emma Jade will have none of that.

‘I’m a winger and I love to run with the ball. I played netball so I’ve been used to catching and throwing – I took to it like a duck to water.’

She admits that the team has suffered the very rare cracked nose and damaged shoulder. ‘We are padded up and have mouth-guards. But there are never fights and if someone gets hurt it’s by accident. We always apologise afterwards.’

One man who does understand the Panthers’ passion for the sport is Emma Jade’s partner, Phil Robinson, a Wigan lad who was a prominent amateur player in Lancashire.

‘I’m the assistant coach and I suppose people do find it unusual for women to be playing the sport,’ he said. ‘It may raise a few eyebrows but I promise you they try every bit as hard as the men.’

Is it every mother’s worst nightmare to have their daughter thundering around a rugby field? ‘My mum had never really been interested in sport but she’s become really supportive since I started playing rugby,’ said Emma Jade.

‘She even went across to Yorkshire to watch us recently. She was worried when I first took it up but now she sees how hard we try to avoid getting hurt, she thinks it’s brilliant. In fact, she said she wishes she was a bit younger so she could join in!’

If you want to join in, the Chorley Pink Panthers regularly train on Wednesday nights at 7.30pm on the Chisnall Playing Fields, Chisnall Lane, Coppull. You can contact Emma Jade at or follow them on twitter @ChorleywomensRL


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Lancashire Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Lancashire Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Lancashire Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

Art is just one of the many attraction on offer in this busy Lakeland town.

Read more
Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Garstang is a lovely old market town and the perfect place to walk off the Christmas dinner. John Lenehan reports

Read more
Thursday, November 29, 2018

Christmas traps many people indoors so it is nice to get out into the wild and breathe in some fresh air. The Wildlife Trust’s Alan Wright finds a hidden corner where you can look out for lots of birds

Read more
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

This pretty coastal town has an irresistible pulling power for people wanting to set up their own business and that’s good news for locals and visitors

Read more
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

This Lancashire city is transforming itself into a centre for the best food and drink, hospitality and heritage

Read more
Friday, November 16, 2018

With the West Pennine Moors and the summits of Rivington Pike and Winter Hill right on its doorstp, Bolton has plenty of options for walkers.

Read more
Monday, November 12, 2018

Lytham Hall was the spectacular setting for a glittering weekend of steam engines, tractors, cars and family fun.

Read more

Barrowford is one of Lancashire’s most stylish towns but it also has some quirky tales to tell

Read more

The busy West Lancashire village of Parbold scores highly for natural beauty and community spirit

Read more

The two-and-a-half year initiative to preserve the remains of the copper mines.

Read more
Thursday, November 8, 2018

Books by Lancashire writer Paula Daly are being filmed in the Lakes by the Broadchurch team for a six-part TV drama starring Rochdale’s Anna Friel

Read more
Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Fact and fiction merge to create a tale of murder and kidnap in a novel based on Rufford Old Hall by National Trust volunteer Margaret Lambert

Read more

Liverpool has always buzzed, even in its darker days, but today it’s booming, and underpinning the resurgence are institutions with roots deep in the Merseyside soil

Read more
Friday, November 2, 2018

With carpets of damp fallen leaves and rotting deadwood covering woodlands, autumn is the time when fungi of all shapes and sizes thrive. The Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s Molly Toal explores the mushroom kingdom.

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Subscribe or buy a mag today

Local Business Directory

Property Search