When it’s all said and done and Waterford camogie star Niamh Rockett nails her boots to the wall, there must surely be a role for her in the game somewhere such is the fire and passion that radiates when she speaks.
The newly promoted Waterford captain feels the game has gone stale, and the only way to fix it is to move with the times and implement rule changes.
“Camogie players, as opposed to a couple of years ago, are way stronger now, fitter now, doing more gym work than ever.” Rockett told Pundit Arena.
“The nutrition that’s gone into sport as opposed to 20 years ago, the rules aren’t lending themselves to how players have developed.
“There are sometimes 28 or 30 frees in a game, girls are stronger so they are going into tackles stronger but you are not allowed to shoulder in camogie so referees are going to blow it,
“And I don’t blame the referees, they are gonna blow for a foul that’s a foul but the rules aren’t lending themselves to how strong the girls are.”
Rockett also lamented other rules in camogie that are perceived to be ancient and outdated.
“Handpassing to the goal where is the skill in that?” she said.
“You should be able to strike to goal if you’ve got the hurl in your hand, they are just making it easier.
“Going around the place wearing skorts, why can we not just play in normal shorts? Most of us played right up until minor level with the boys and wore shorts, it just doesn’t make sense to me.”
She believes the rules within camogie have lent itself to the game becoming unwatchable for many people and this has resulted in the sport falling below ladies football in terms of popularity.
“The ladies football got 50,000 last year in the All-Ireland final, camogie got less than half that.” she said.
“No disrespect to Cork or Kilkenny, but it’s not a good spectacle, the one match, the best match all year was actually the most boring match because it was all too defensive.”
“People in camogie need to sit down and ask the question were are we going? The girl’s participation rates aren’t as good as ladies football. Is it that the money isn’t as good and people can’t afford to buy helmets and hurls? Is it the fact that football is more accessible to younger people? Are there more role models?
For Rockett, she feels steps in the right direction have been made but until camogie is operating under the same banner as hurling the sport will never make the improvements it truly needs to.
“There are so many things we need to do and we keep making small steps in the right direction.
“Going under the hurling branch is one thing that we need to get forward and push through. We can give out about referees and standards but until we’re under the same bracket we’re not going to make the massive strides we need to.
“Its not the Camogie Association’s fault either, there needs to be a bigger push and we all need to row in behind it and if we don’t and things stay the way they are we may not have any camogie in 20 years time, and that is a scary prospect.”
Niamh Rockett is only 25, but she is wise beyond her years having made her inter-county debut as a 15-year-old. She has won junior and intermediate All-Ireland medals and now captains Waterford as they try to bridge the gap between Cork and Kilkenny and get their hands on a senior All-Ireland.
It is a far cry from the set-up she first joined as a child were players had to pay to play camogie.
“Its funny, I’m 25, but I am known as one of the old ones on the team because I’ve played since I was 15.” she said.
“As much as the team changes and new players come in, the same mantra exists in Waterford camogie, we don’t get paid or get expenses, it actually costs you to play camogie. A couple of years ago when I started junior we had to pay €3 to train under lights which shows the girl’s committment, that is why im glad to be captain of this team.
“We want to compete with Kilkenny and Cork, nobody wants to be training in the muck in October but that’s what drives me, to get that senior All-Ireland and have all three (junior,intermediate & senior).
Rockett is a realist, she knows women’s sport will always struggle to be considered an equal alongside the men’s and she feels that before camogie goes in search of equality alongside hurling, it must first address the inequality running through the sport itself.
“If you look at an intermediate team, they are probably still paying for things, it’s not fair on them, so before I say I want to be up where the men are, I first want all of camogie to be on a par with each other.
“Kilkenny and Cork have heart rate monitors whilst the junior teams struggle to field 15 players that’s not good for camogie.”
One of Waterford’s most stylish players Niamh Rockett is pictured at the launch of Littlewoods Ireland’s #StyleOfPlay campaign for the National Camogie Leagues. The fashion, sportswear, electrical and homeware retailer will be shining a light on the players this season by live streaming 6 games during the Littlewoods Ireland National Camogie League, bringing the sport to over 100,000 fans. For more information and behind the scenes action, follow Littlewoods Ireland on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and blog.littlewoodsireland.ie.