A passion ignited during her years as a Toowoomba student has resulted in the prestigious OBE being awarded to Rosie Williams for her many years of service to women’s rugby.

Born in Glen Innes, New South Wales, and growing up on a sheep and cattle property, Rosie Williams’s time spent as a rugby-loving female boarder attending Downlands College in Toowoomba was the start of a journey which would lead her to become the managing director of Women’s Rugby in England and to her current role as head of rugby delivery. In October last year, Rosie was invested with an Order of the British Empire by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II for her service to Women’s Rugby over a career spanning 20 years.

Rosie recalls avidly watching the Downlands boys as they took to the rugby field, and spending hours talking with the formidable Downlands head of rugby at the time, John Elders, as he mentored future Australian Wallaby champions such as Tim Horan, Brett Robinson and Garrick Morgan. Rosie’s passion for the sport led her to join a women’s rugby team, and after spending the early years of her career in sports administration, in 2002 Rosie accepted a role to lead a women’s rugby program in England.

Always keen to embrace a challenge, Rosie credits her Downlands education with helping her advance to the position she now holds and for affording her a sense of gender equality. “I recall being taught to achieve, and that competition is a good thing,” says Rosie. Rosie’s current position sees her involved at the highest level in the promotion of both men’s and women’s rugby and she is revelling in this latest expansion of her role. Although she acknowledges that the commercial challenges of having adequate screening of women’s sport on television, and in securing sponsorships, still remain, Rosie has been pleased by what she perceives as a dramatic shift in public attention towards women’s rugby over the past 10 years. Rosie’s goal is to see 15-a-side and seven-a-side rugby being played by millions of women across the world. She is looking forward to the Women’s Rugby World Cup which is being held in France in 2014 and which will bring inspiration to women rugby players the world over, and also to the Olympics in Rio in 2016, where Rugby Sevens is to form part of the program for both men and women for the first time.

Rosie also will be kept well occupied with the Rugby World Cup to which England plays host in 2015, however with these events and a family who enjoys taking the opportunity to meet up with her in the UK and Europe, her visits back home are becoming increasingly rare. Her fond memories of her Australian childhood remain though – especially her days at Pony Camp, and Balancing Rock and the pies from Smeaton’s Bakery at Glen Innes, as well as Downlands-Grammar day and the clattering of the First XV boys’ rugby boots up the stairs to Main Oval at Downlands. If Rosie has it her way, one day there may just be an all-girl First XV to join them…
Words  by Deborah Disney