Young Japanese Woman Breaks Into Australian Rugby

Rugby is one of the most important and most followed sports in Australia. But for a young Japanese woman to make an inspirational career in rugby is something unheard of. This is the story of Ayane Hirata, who has gone on to inspire so many Japanese women that there are so many who are following on her footsteps.

Who is Ayane?

Today, Ayane Hirata is a well known Japanese rugby player in Australia. She battled through so many hardships to make her dream come true. The girl has been playing the game since 2005, when she started her tryst with rugby in Japan. She dreams of becoming an international player one day. In a major breakthrough for her, she is all set to play in Queensland for the next rugby season.

Challenges for Ayane Hirata

It is a surprising thing in itself that a Japanese girl who didn’t know English, made it to Australia by playing Rugby. Ayane dreamt of playing rugby as far back as when she was in grade 3. Her goal was to go on and become a professional player. Interestingly, there is no rugby in girl’s primary schools. This meant that she had to play the game with boys. Not only did she face bullying from boys, she also faced stiff resistance from her family and community.

But instead of walking away from her passion, the resistance inspired her further. She trained harder to prove everyone wrong that rugby was not a game for girls. Besides, her parents were also concerned about her future because there was no money in rugby for women.

But the old adage, “Where there is a will…..,” could never have gone wrong. Her opportunity came in the form of an advertisement and she grabbed it. And she ended up being the winner of the 2014 StudyQueensland Ultimate Gap Year competition. She’s all about to become a pro and her story is the perfect example of what determination can help achieve.

How Ayane Inspired Japanese Women’s Rugby Players?

Ayane Hirata image
Ayane Hirata in action

Ayane Hirata went on to win a scholarship with the Griffith University, which recognizes how she contributed to the student community. Her overcoming obstacles story has also been an inspiration to women in this sport and women athletes in general in Japan. In fact, many schools in Australia and New Zealand are now running special programs to bring girl students from Japan and train them in rugby. Many of these students return to their country to perform at senior and national levels.

There are currently three more Japanese rugby players who are part of a similar program at Burnside High School. This includes Wasana Fukushima, Misaki Naka and Reeko Tanaka. As part of the program they also spend skills sessions with the boys from St. Bede’s. And it is expected that all these Japanese girls, including Ayane could make it to the Japanese national at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

In fact, the program at Burnside works in conjunction with the Canterbury Rugby Football Union and the Japanese Rugby Football Union. All this means that Ayane is well on her way to represent her country at the national levels in the near future. Thanks to these programs, more and more Japanese girls are receiving advanced rugby training and coaching in Australia. The best thing is that girls like Ayane are able to find a progressive culture here that helps them train better and focus on their sport. Visits to New Zealand further help them get broader exposure to the sport and skills.

Ayane’s is one of the first inspirational stories of Japanese women making a mark in rugby. Thanks to her, there are likely many more Japanese girls looking to showcase their skills in sports.


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