Saracens Women Club History
Established in 1989, Saracens Women are one of the leading teams in women's rugby.
The early years
The club was founded in 1989 by a group of players, five of whom were senior internationals. They were Amanda Bennett (Wales), Liza Burgess (Wales), Emma Mitchell (England), Janis Ross (England), Sam Robson (England), Katie Ball, Maria Anderson and Kate Fullerlove. The early years saw the women’s team work hard to forge a relationship with the one of the country’s oldest rugby clubs by volunteering in the kitchen or as match stewards at men’s games, and cleaning changing rooms. Once established, they became an integral part of the club and generated considerable support at their Sunday afternoon matches.
Whilst much is now known about nutrition and post-match recovery, in the 1990s the club would provide a large jug of lager shandy for the team in the changing rooms immediately after each game. This would be drunk as they washed mud off in the huge baths that could accommodate up to 15 people. After the bath, players would head into the clubhouse to share a beer with the opposition over sausage and chips prepared by the redoubtable Chris McGrath, Saracens’ long-serving cook who was a passionate supporter of the women’s team.
Success for the north London side was swift as they picked up their first trophy after only a year in 1990 at the National Sevens. More silverware followed as Saracens Women dominated the Nineties winning an impressive 17 titles including doubles in 1991, 1994 and 1996, and they became the first team to win the Premiership, Cup and Sevens treble in 1993, a feat repeated in 1998.
Saracens’ achievements were recognised in 1993 at the prestigious Sunday Times Sportswomen of the Year Awards when they were nominated for Team of the Year after completing their historic treble that year. They came third behind the British Cycling Team Pursuit team and the British Rowing Pairs. This was the first time women’s rugby had been nominated for any Sunday Times award.
1994 World Cup winners from Sarries:
Sarries juggernaut continues
Riding high off the back of the 1999 treble, Sarries continued their form to take the Premiership title in 2000 and again in 2002 led by captain and England international Claire Frost. In 2001 the coaching team of Amanda Bennett and Lee Adamson was formed and led the first XV through a period of unprecedented success. This would not have been possible without the immense contribution of Katie Ball and Steve Savory whose work with the second XV ensured there was a steady flow of talent. Saracens have always had a fantastic commitment to player development and there is a long list of number of players who started their careers in the second team before achieving success at international levels, including Maggie Alphonsi.
Saracens Women stamped their dominance on the domestic game, holding on to the Premiership title for four consecutive years from 2006 to 2009 and adding another Cup trophy to the cabinet along the way. They were unbeaten in the Premiership during this four-year period, a feat not achieved by any club before or since.
A new home
In 2014 Saracens Women said goodbye to the grounds of Bramley Road and moved to their new home of Allianz Park. They were the first women’s side to play alongside their male Premiership counterparts on a state of the art artificial turf pitch.
Twenty years since they had lifted the trophy, England Women claimed the sport’s biggest prize at the World Cup in Paris in August 2014 with Saracens' Maggie Alphonsi and Vicky Fleetwood in the squad.
2015 saw the Women in Black claim their first silverware for five years, winning the Premiership and Cup double in a record breaking year for Saracens as they secured six domestic titles.
Sarries had the chance to emulate the triumphs of 2015 when they reached the finals of both the Premiership and the National Cup, but fell just short to finish runners-up.
Sevens was back on the agenda in 2016 on the domestic and international scene as the Rio Olympics welcomed its return. Claire Allan and Emily Scott were members of Team GB who finished fourth in the competition. The Women’s Premiership 7s proved a great success as Saracens Women lifted the trophy in front of a packed Ricoh Arena and a live television audience.
In February 2017 Saracens Women were named as one of ten teams offered a place in the new women’s domestic competition, the Tyrells Premier 15s, which launched in September that year. The RFU committed a multi-million pound investment over three years to improve standards of the women’s game, as well as increase the talent pool available for selection for England.
Saracens were the inaugural winners of the Premier 15s, beating London rivals Harlequins in a tense final in May 2018, having finished top of the table and beaten Gloucester-Hartpury in the semi-finals. New signing Marlie Packer ended the season as the league's top try scorer, vindicating her decision to move from Bristol after finishing runners-up with England in the Women's Rugby World Cup in the summer of 2017.
The summer of 2018 saw a change to the coaching team, with Rob Cain leaving to take charge of USA Women and Alex Austerberry replacing him as head coach.
Saracens went on to defend their TP15s title in 2018/19. The Women in Black finished top of the table again with just a solitary defeat to Harlequins at The Stoop during the regular season. After seeing off Wasps in the semi-finals, they produced their best 40 minutes of rugby that season as they ran up a 27 - 0 half-time score against Quins at Franklins Gardens in the final.
Despite a second half comeback from their rivals it was Saracens who ran out 33 - 17 winners.
Saracens Women will celebrate their 30th anniversary in April 2019 - watch this space for more news on this...