By Brodie Ranson and Jennifer Clutton
A Sunshine Coast athlete is gearing up to represent Australia in the first women’s national gridiron team at the 2017 Women’s World Championship held in Canada.
Rhianna Kuss, 20, started playing at the Sunshine Coast Spartans Gridiron Club in the Under 18 Colts team when she was 16.
With no women’s gridiron team on the Sunshine Coast, she began competing with the boys and against the boys.
Kuss, who plays cornerback, said at that point she was the only girl in the league on the Coast.
“When I went to the first trainings to sign on everyone was like ‘what is happening?’, ‘why is there a girl here?’,” Rhianna Kuss said.
There was no rule saying she couldn’t play.
“So I was there, a 16-year-old girl playing against 18-year-old guys, I took some massive hits but it just made me stronger,” she said.
“No other team knew I was a girl.
“I was wearing the helmet and pads and then we’d take them off at the end of the game, shake hands, and they would all be like ‘oh my god I can’t believe I hit you.’”
“They would act so differently towards me and I’m like I don’t care, I choose to play the game.”
Once she turned 18 and could no longer compete in the Under 18 Colts team, her mum pushed to start a women’s team.
After competing in the Sunshine Coast Spartans Women’s Gridiron team for three years, big things are happening for Kuss, or Ren as she is known on the field.
She went through two selection processes out of all the women in Australia before being selected to play on the Australian Outback Women’s National Team.
This will be the first year that Australia will compete in the Women’s World Championship in June.
Teams from Finland, Great Britain, United States, Mexico and Canada will play over two days before the final teams will progress to the final game day.
Sunshine Coast Spartans Gridiron Club President Benjamin Gough said the women’s team gets better every year.
“It’s good to see the women’s team grow the way it has and it hasn’t had super success on the field yet but its not to say that it wont,” Mr Gough said.
“They’re getting better every year and that’s good to see. And now to see Ren heading to Canada, it’s awesome for us as a club to know that we’ve got those players to that level.”
For Kuss, getting to this level has been a dream, but the expense of getting to Canada proves to be a big hurdle.
“We have to pay our own way there as it’s not funded, so it’s about $7000 each,” she said.
“We have to pay for flights, accommodation and gear, it’s expensive,” she said.
Kuss has started a GoFundMe page to help raise money to get her to the championship.
To help her, visit www.gofundme.com/ren-aust-national-gridiron-team