A new coach but the same results, Kaeli King talks with Gary Heatly
By Gary Heatly
Over the summer, there were a lot of changes in the Women's XV set-up, but you would not have known it as the squad put in a composed performance to defeat Cartha Queens Park on the opening day of the Tennent's Premiership campaign.
The group, now led by new head coach Bruce Millar, was without a number of players who played key roles in the title win of 2021/22 for various reasons as they headed to Dumbreck, but the new-look starting XV scored nine tries to return to Myreside with a 53-7 triumph in the bag.
The try scorers were Charlotte Harris, Bryony Nelson (2), Rowann Sinclair, Briar McNamara, Kaeli King, Charlotte Runcie and Sophie Anderson (2). McNamara added four conversions while Chloe McCue and former Scotland cap Sarah-Louise Russell filled in on the bench.
Next up for the team is a home match against Stirling County on Saturday, September 3 at 2pm and it would be great to have a good crowd down to support them.
County also got 2022/23 off to a good start when they defeated last year's runners-up Hillhead/Jordanhill 54-17, so it promises to be a cracking fixture.
Centre Briar McNamara, from New Zealand, is the team's captain now, with hooker Kaeli King, from America, vice-captain.
Both are in their second seasons at the club and Kaeli said: "It is a great honour for myself and Briar to be in these leadership positions at the club and it shows how welcoming, friendly and inclusive Watsonians is that we have been given these roles when we are relatively new here.
"New head coach Bruce Millar came in a few weeks ago now and we have been working on his style of play and the way he likes to do things at training, so it was good to get out there and play a game at Cartha on Saturday.
"We weren't sure how things would go as there were a few new faces and a few players having moved positions in the team, but everyone played for each other and we got a good result.
"Now we are just going to be working on fine-tuning things and nailing down our style of play before we take on Stirling County next weekend.
"We are all excited for the season ahead and want to keep building as a group and see where it takes us."
"I fell in love with the sport."
So, how did Kaeli get into rugby?
"My first club was Barnes down in London where I was studying six or seven years ago," she explains.
"I was not in a great place with my mental health at the time, but one day I was walking past a game and I saw these women who looked happy and content out there on the pitch, they were body positive and I was jealous, I wanted a part of that.
"As an American, I hadn't really heard of rugby or seen it before, but soon after I was playing the game and I haven't looked back since.
"I fell in love with the sport and rugby has become quite a central part of my identity. It has helped me improve my mental health and my relationship with my body while the community aspect is really important for me.
"I have found a group of women - and men too - who have similar interests to me and you just end up having a built-in family, it really is great.
"When I moved to Edinburgh to study, I played for a while at Edinburgh University and then, as I began to work, I was keen to keep my rugby going.
"Sarah Donnelly suggested that I headed down to a Watsonians training session and I was quite anxious at the time because the squad had lots of vastly experienced players in it, but everyone made me feel so welcome from the first minute I arrived.
"Everyone is given a warm welcome within our group and myself and Briar are keen to keep that culture going and we look forward to seeing supporters from the club down to watch us play on September 3."
The Women's XV squad that won at Cartha: Julie Lyons; Bryony Nelson, Charlotte Runcie, Briar McNamara (C), Rowann Sinclair; Susie Clements, Charlotte Harris; Ailie Tucker, Kaeli King (V-C), Caitlin Abernethy, Sophie Anderson, Carly Lauder, Sarah Kearley, Nikki Brown, Molly Poolman. Subs: Sarah-Louise Russell, Chloe McCue.
Anyone who is interested in joining the Women's XV or finding out more should email Women's & Girls Rugby captain Caitlin Abernethy on firstname.lastname@example.org