The YSAS Transitions through Rugby program aims to support young people from Pacific Island communities who are experiencing issues with alcohol and other drugs.
From April to November 2012 about 10 committed young women met daily to do physical training, including being mentored by members of the Melbourne Rebels. As part of the program they also completed education and developed a range of life and employment skills.
Rugby is a demanding sport, but especially for someone with a substance dependency. At the start of the season many of the young women were unfit and struggled to complete a training session, let alone a full game.
Halfway through the season, one of the young women approached Mike Enticott, a youth worker at YSAS Dandenong, for a chat. “I can’t do this,” she said. “I’m going to have to not drink on the Friday night, play on the Saturday, then have a drink afterwards.” It was a small victory for sobriety, and later several other team members made a similar pact to limit their partying on the night before a rugby match.
Two or three games later, the same young woman came up to Mike again. “That’s it,” she said. “I just can’t do it.”
But she wasn’t talking about the rugby. She was talking about the alcohol. “Two-thirds of the way through the season, she gave up the drink, and just wanted to focus on her rugby,” says Mike.