The phrase ‘dreams come true’ is one that Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University Rugby and Golf Sport Manager, Melissa Awu can attest to after recently being elected as the first female in the University Sports South Africa (USSA) Rugby Executive Committee.
Awu, 31, will be USSA Rugby’s Development Officer for the next three years, working with various universities to try uplift and grow women’s rugby.
“There are approximately eight universities who currently bring teams to USSA women’s league. I will be happy if by the time my work period at USSA is over, I have added four more universities to increase that number to 12.
“National Federations fund a lot of rugby teams. If I can try and open up those doors where the National Federations would invest in the women as well, that would be an achievement for me.”
For her election to be possible, Awu was nominated by three universities namely; Rhodes University, Tshwane University of Technology and Walter Sisulu University.
“Those three universities called to inform me that they would be nominating me for the position of Development Officer at USSA Rugby. I am excited and my confidence has definitely been boosted. It’s nice to know there are people who notice how hard I am working.
“Being elected has put me on my toes – I constantly have to achieve to avoid disappointing the people who nominated me, because they have confidence in me. I am under pressure to not let them down.”
Even though Awu has never played rugby before, she is a big fan and is truly in love with the sport. This is because of her grandmother who loved and taught her about the sport.
Her fondest memory of when her interest in rugby developed was watching the 1995 Rugby World Cup with her grandmother. Awu was amazed by how much knowledge she had for “an old woman”. That event sparked her interest to find out how things worked in rugby.
Awu has been in the rugby industry for more than 10 years now and doesn’t find being the only woman on the executive board intimidating.
“I am used to being the ‘only woman’ in many things relating to rugby. But like in any other male dominated industry, women have to work a bit harder than the average worker.”
Besides managing rugby, Mel also manages golf at Madibaz Sport. She hopes to grow the sport on campus and introduce it to people who have never played the sport before.
“Most business deals are made on a golf course and it would be beneficial for example for a BCom graduate to play golf.”
Awu’s first task as development officer includes assisting in planning a female rugby match which will be played in Margate, KwaZulu-Natal in September.