Cheryl Wilson has been co-opted to Chairperson of Rugby on Dungannon RFC’s general committee – making her the first woman to hold the position at the club.
“It’s got a lot of attention!”, Cheryl said when speaking to Ulster Rugby of her appointment. “As far as I was concerned, I was privileged to be taking up the role within my club, but I’ve had phone calls and congratulations from all over Ireland.”
A devotee to the women’s game in Ulster, Wilson has been embedded in rugby life for as long as she can remember, watching games from the side of the pitch as a youngster. As soon as she was able to drive, she joined Cooke RFC – the only club with a women’s team at the time – so that she could play the game she loved.
As the women’s game grew, she moved to City of Armagh RFC and enjoyed All-Ireland success there. In 2016 when her native Dungannon set up a senior women’s team, she jumped at the opportunity to get involved. Since then, the women’s section at the club has gone from strength-to-strength, with the team winning the ReJenerate cup in their first season and now competing in the Deloitte Ulster Women’s Premiership.
Cheryl has become a recognisable figure at Dungannon, volunteering when possible and supporting the other teams within the club. It was this, along with her leadership skills, that she feels led to her appointment.
“The biggest thing for women in rugby leadership roles is definitely confidence and having the knowledge of the game. You need to have the experience, ability and understanding to forge an opinion and the confidence to communicate it effectively. It is also the ability to get on with people to get the job done.
“I’ve always been able to help people and that finds its way back to you. I’d be the first to put my hand up if something was needed and it gets you known throughout the club.”
As Chairperson of Rugby, she will oversee all on-pitch aspects of the club, with responsibility for coaches and participation levels. She will ensure each team within Dungannon, irrespective of age, gender or ability has what it needs to succeed.
“There’s a good set-up here already. I will be taking over from Kenny Wright, [who now takes up the Junior Vice-President position at the club] and anywhere that I can see potential for improvement, that’s up to me with the support of the committee.”
When it comes to being appointed to a club committee, Cheryl stresses that it’s important to earn that place on merit and that gender should not be a basis for appointment.
She doesn’t see herself as a pioneer but would be delighted if her experience sparks an interest in women and girls to get involved at their club.
“Even if girls never play anything more than for the social aspect, if they enjoy the game and understand it, some may then come back as parents, then progress to coaches at mini and youth level. It’s this feeder effect that’s needed to sustain club rugby. If my appointment can be the catalyst that gets someone along to their local club, then that’s what it’s all about!”