x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

In need of a woman's deft touch

Toa Dubai have the largest contingent of Emirati players of any side in the Gulf but they also have the distinction of being the only male team coached by a female.

DUBAI // Toa Dubai have the largest contingent of Emirati players of any side in the Gulf but they also have the distinction of being the only male team coached by a female. It is quite an experience for a group of players who are still getting to grips with the rudiments of the game in their inaugural season. Vaniya Lavea is employed as a coach by the Elite Sporting Academy (ESA) in Dubai, and her job description involves coaching the men from the Emirates League club.

"I think it is a new thing for men here, to have a woman coach," said Lavea, an Auckland fly-half who represented the New Zealand Black Ferns until this year. "I hope they have taken to it well. I haven't had any problems and they are a good bunch of boys. I am the only lady member of staff coaching the boys teams at the moment. I am used to it, but I am not sure the Toa men's team are." Lavea, whose sister Justine was part of the New Zealand side who finished runners-up in the World Cup Sevens in the UAE in March, cut her coaching teeth teaching men at Counties Manukau, the prominent Auckland club.

"We brought Vaniya over as part of our plans to develop women's coaching, but the boys have also really embraced her already," said John Mamea-Wilson, the ESA director. "She has brought her own fresh ideas and as soon as the boys knew she played for New Zealand, they were all over it." Lavea will have to perform something of a juggling act this weekend. She will pull the strings at No 10 for Toa Dubai in the ladies tournament today before making a beeline for the matches involving their male counterparts.

@Email:pradley@thenational.ae Toa Dubai's Club Ladies tournament fixtures today: 10.40am, v Moody Cows 12.40pm, v Kuwait Nomads 2.20pm, v Abu Dhabi Harlequins (all matches on Pitch 5)