Birkenhead Park Panthers player Kate Thompson says the return of the Wirral Touch League will help the team to stay sharp ahead of their next season in the Championship North Two.

Restarting again this month, the Wirral Touch League allows players the opportunity to compete in a more relaxed environment, without the pressure of the normal league campaign.

Each team plays three 10-minute games on a fortnightly basis, a format Thompson says works well and keeps the game exciting.

“There are so many rugby clubs on the Wirral, for such a small area geographically.

“The rules are really relaxed, so knock ons and things like that are allowed, it’s one-handed touch, so it’s really open to the mums that come and take their kids to training that want to get involved.

“There’s a pretty large amount of people and every team had subs, so there must’ve been about 50-60 people there, if not more.”

Allowing players to sharpen their technical skills during the off-season, Thompson, who is also on the committee at Birkenhead Park, says the Wirral Touch League is perfect for improving handling and overall team play.

“You have to be more conscious of keeping the ball alive, instead of just running with it, which is the main reason, as a contact team, we want to get involved in the touch league, because it only enhances our game as contact players.

“But in other aspects, such as aggression, contact and personal confidence, if anything, it’s detrimental because you get used to pulling up to touch and stopping your play, instead of breaking the contact and carrying on with your momentum, but we work on that in pre-season anyway.

Image: Birkenhead Park Panthers Women's Rugby Team Facebook
Image: Birkenhead Park Panthers Women’s Rugby Team Facebook

“It lets some of the girls that are less confident, or maybe don’t get as much game time, they can come on and not be afraid of messing up, and everyone is given the chance to progress.”

With Birkenhead finishing fourth in the Championship North 2, Thompson says the team can be pleased with their position and delighted to be back playing, in what is their first season back after coronavirus lockdown restrictions reaped havoc upon sport all over the country.

She said: “The RFU did a really good job of getting us back playing after Covid.

“In terms of graduating it, they gave you the guidelines that you needed anyway, saying ‘this is what you’re allowed to do based on regulations’, so we didn’t really have to guess ourselves and it made sure that everyone was comfortable.”

Looking forward to next season, the target is to solidify their league position, as well as close the gap to the top three.

“It would be nice to have less of a disparity between the teams that just seem a lot more drilled,” she said.

“We want to be able to compete with those teams that have a bit more structure because they’ve been up in those higher leagues before.”

Having formed 13 years ago, Birkenhead Park Panthers are also hoping to increase their professionalism, by gaining sponsorships and new kit.

“We want to really hone the set up that we have, we’re the only club on the Wirral at a competitive standard for women’s rugby.

“Professionalism and continuity of our play is something that we’re really going to work on this year, so we can compete with those teams that are higher up.”

(Featured image: Birkenhead Park Panthers Women’s Rugby Team Facebook)