ENGLAND STAR JOINS TRAILBLAZING TEAM - Touch rugby player Joelene Hughes joins female-only club
ENGLAND STAR JOINS TRAILBLAZING TEAM - Touch rugby player Joelene Hughes joins female-only club

England Touch player, Joelene Hughes

23rd June 2021

By Tom Howe

England Touch international Joelene Hughes has linked up with local club, Bodmin Ladies, in preparation for next summer’s European Championships.

Having moved to Cornwall to be closer to family, Hughes was eager to continue a 15-year touch rugby journey that has taken her from a beginner through to setting up her own team and on to representing her country.

Taking up the sport while at university in Scotland, Hughes went on to launch Oxford Touch, where she played for a decade and put in performances that paved the way for international recognition.

Now in the Duchy, Hughes has joined Cornwall’s sole female-only touch team to make new friends and maintain fitness levels, while adding her experience to one of the country’s fastest-growing sports.

“I moved down for lockdown, my family are all down here so I came down for that,” Hughes told the Voice before heading off to an England training camp at the weekend.

“When we could start playing sport again, I automatically linked up with my local touch team to meet new people and make friends. I have been playing since my late 20s and took it up when I was doing a PHD at a university in Scotland. “A lot of touch clubs are mixed and it is a very social atmosphere.

I moved down to Oxford where I set up a touch club. It is quite a southern hemisphere sport so there was a mix of South Africans and Kiwis. Then I tried out and played for England. It is amazing and I absolutely love the sport. It is brilliant socially and the England set-up, since I started playing, has really expanded.

“There are age categories all the way up. It is such a good sport to take up when you are young and play for the rest of your life. I am here for fitness and to meet people – I have just moved down, am working from home and the pubs are shut! As I am playing for England and am still in the training squad, I need to keep my skills up. It is really good, after a year of not playing in a squad, to get back to it.

“What I like is that it is helping me think again. Whatever level you are playing with, it is really good to get those basic skills brushed up again.

It is about constant communication and [doing that here] is partly about building [the players’] confidence. Give it a while and they will be telling me where to be because it is a team game. Any sport has it, you go through stages of enthusiasm and learning. It is just trying to do that in a positive way.”

Having introduced Cornwall’s first female-only team, Bodmin coach Paul Couch hopes to continue to lead the emergence of touch rugby within the South West.

He said: “Joelene helps a lot. During the game, I will referee and Joelene will help the other players with their positioning. As Joelene said, it is all about building the players’ confidence up. You can have a new player come in who is really quick but be all over the place and wasting energy. Joelene will say ‘stay next to me and when I tell you to go, run’.”

Everyone is welcome to try out the sport and attend training, regardless of age or ability. For more information, including details on how you can get involved, search Bodmin Ladies Touch Rugby on Instagram and Facebook.