Inspiring girls lead the way in this year’s Edstart Rugby Scholarship Program


Thirteen year old Charli Hardgrave from Narara Valley High School has been playing rugby for the Gosford Red Devils since the age of 6. Whilst she’s often the only girl on the field, she’s proven herself as a fierce competitor and loves to see the boys’ faces change when she fends them off or tackles them over the sideline.

Charli is a part of the new generation of female players inspired by the increasing popularity of women’s rugby, which is one of the fastest growing team sports in the world since the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

“There are pathways emerging for girls right now and I want to be involved in the best of them,” said Charli.

Like Charli, MacKillop Catholic College student and Northlakes Junior Rugby player Lakota Soane has taken inspiration from the Wallaroos as well as her family’s connection to rugby. Coming from a family where generations of women have played before her, Lakota’s love for the game has evolved into an ambition to play rugby professionally as a career.

Continuing to support young players

Charli and Lakota are two of the players selected in the 2022 Edstart Rugby Scholarship Program. This is the third year we are running the program, and we are proud to be supporting junior players by helping with the costs of rugby as well as providing development opportunities. This year’s program has expanded to include a skills clinic at Waratahs HQ and an exclusive player pack.

Connecting with the community

Oakhill College student Oliver Ceely has been playing rugby with Dural Rugby Club since he was 10 years old. The sport has given him the opportunity to connect with players from different schools and diverse backgrounds.


Oliver is committed to improving his rugby game, but also aims to develop his coaching skills through our Scholarship Program. He supports Aboriginal community centres with a teacher from school, and hopes to be able to share his passion with other kids in the community and encourage them to get involved.

“I think it would be a great opportunity to further develop, support and inspire our community,” Oliver said.

Travelling great distances

Valin Kennedy is a dedicated player who travels 2 hours from home each day to attend the closest rugby school. He plays for his local club the Orange Emus, and has also represented Central West Rugby and his school team St Stanislaus' College in Bathurst.


Rugby gives him an outlet where he can burn off energy, which he says helps him focus and learn better in the classroom. He says the social aspect of the sport has helped him develop skills, gain confidence and build resilience.

“I have learned in life that when you get knocked down you get back up again, just like on the rugby field when you get tackled,” says Valin.

Successful scholarship recipients

  • Harrison Simmonds - Lindfield Junior Rugby Club - Barker College
  • Oliver Ceely - Dural Rugby Club - Oakhill College
  • Nathaniel Evans - Southern Beaches Junior Club - Belmont Christian College
  • Billie Backus - Hamilton Hawks Rugby Club - Hunter Sports High School
  • Giavanna Leo - Western Raptors Junior Rugby Club - Westfields Sports High School
  • Harry Locker-Lloyd - St Edmund's College - St Edmund's College
  • Harry Petley - Terrigal Rugby Union Club - St Edwards College
  • Lakota Soane - Northlakes Junior Rugby Union Club - MacKillop Catholic College
  • Indee Carr - Penrith Emus Rugby Club - James Erskine Public School
  • Charli Hardgrave - Gosford Red Devils - Narara Valley High School
  • Freddie Finlayson - Easts Junior Beasties RUFC - St Joseph's College, Hunters Hill
  • Valin Kennedy - Orange Emus Rugby Club - St Stanislaus College
  • Patrick Palmer - Randwick Rugby Club - Waverley College
  • Oscar Mahoney - Razorbacks Rugby Club - St Edwards College, East Gosford
  • Archie Perry - Lismore Rugby Union Club - Wyrallah Road Public School
  • Rocco Little - The Sylvania Bulldogs Junior Rugby Club - Jannali East Public School
  • Maronay Smuts - Maitland Junior Rugby Union - Singleton High School
  • Thomas Nisbet - Casuarina Beach Rugby Club - Lindisfarne Anglican Grammar School
  • Nicholas Jaucian - Redfield College Lions Rugby Club - Redfield College
  • Jack Campbell - Oatley Rugby Club - Picnic Point High School

We look forward to following the journey of these talented players this rugby season and beyond.

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