By Milly McEvoy
Having secured funding for the Allianz Premier 15s season, DMP Sharks are ready to take to the stage and prove they deserve their place, co-captain Kenny Thomas-Roberts said.
The Sharks faced an uncertain future in August when they were given a target of £50,000 to raise and only a few weeks in which to do it, but through crowd-funding and sponsorship, they live on.
The only North East club in the league has produced over 50 England U20s and senior internationals including reigning World Rugby's Women's 15s Player of the Year Zoe Aldcroft, which is for Thomas-Roberts a sign of their vital role in women's rugby.
“We're very excited for the season to start, it has been a bit of a turbulent preseason for us with the uncertainty of the financial situation that we were in, but we are happy to be here,” the Canadian said.
“We also feel like we do deserve to be here. We have produced a lot of high-level players that have come through our team.
“Unfortunately, they don't always stay with us which makes us feel like we're fighting a little bit of a vicious circle and a battle every season to retain our players and keep the North East having an elite women's team.
— DMP Sharks (@DMP_Sharks) November 19, 2022
“As a playing squad, we decided we wanted to fight and we wanted to see if we could get the backing from the people.
“And it was so amazing and really surreal to realise that we have more support than we thought we had.”
The Allianz Premier 15s has been going from strength to strength, 2022 saw record attendances at home games and the most competitive campaign to date, confirming it as the world’s leading domestic women’s competition.
DMP Sharks will take to the field on Saturday with renewed focus and energy, not needing to be spurred on by the local derby that awaits them.
The Darlington-based club will travel to Heywood Road to take on Sale Sharks in their season opener with kick-off at 2pm.
Sale finished just ahead of DMP last season, their two wins over their Northern rivals their only victories of a tricky second campaign in the league.
DMP went winless last season but Thomas-Roberts believes their place in the league is about more than just points, it is about the future of rugby in the North East.
She added: “I worry that if there wasn't a place for us, girls and women in the North East, either they may travel elsewhere, but they may just be lost, and they may not have a place to go.
— DMP Sharks (@DMP_Sharks) November 18, 2022
“They wouldn't be found and there would be talented players that just get left behind. I really think that there is a need to have a team in the North East. representing the region.
“We do talk about our culture and who we are and what we represent and a lot of what is embedded in our core is resilience, especially being from the north.
“The teams that we come up against have resources that we don't have, we have to be resilient, and that gets instilled in training.
“It brings us together, and although there are people that have left, we have a good core of girls that when new players come in, they understand our attitudes and how we have to be and how hard we have to work to be here and to represent the region.”
Allianz Premier 15s - the elite women’s rugby competition in England. @Premier15s