From scrums to bare bums

Nathalie Bendavid strikes a pose for the 2009-10 senior women's rugby calendar. (Photo courtesy of...

Nathalie Bendavid strikes a pose for the 2009-10 senior women's rugby calendar. (Photo courtesy of Cathy Chatterton)

ALISON KORN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:12 AM ET

The national women's rugby team is seeking a little more exposure these days, and not only on the field of play.

Athletes are selling a provocative, nearly-nude calendar that highlights their fit, powerful bodies and aims to raise money as they try to qualify for the first-ever women's Rugby 7s World Cup in Dubai, UAE in March.

"Most people on the team work really hard for their bodies," said Cheryl Philips, 26, a Toronto community justice worker who has been on the national team for a year. 'It's done in a tasteful way and if it helps us generate money and cover costs, I think it's a great idea."

The black and white, 2009/2010 Senior Women's Rugby Calendar sells for $20, with $15 of that going towards the team. They've printed 5000 copies of the calendar, with a goal to raise $100,000. Every athlete has been asked to sell 100 and they can also be ordered online at www.rugbycanada.ca.

Sexier. Bolder. Those aren't my words, they're the words used on the site to inspire sales.

Ugh. This is not what sport is supposed to be about.

One would think, living in a country where women are pretty much welcome in amateur sport, that female jocks wouldn't have to show flesh to earn cash.

Canada sends nearly equal numbers of men and women to the Olympics, while some other nations don't bother to give girls a chance.

But rugby is not an Olympic sport, and the women's game never gets on TV or earns gate receipts, so the team is self-funded. Pay to play, as they put it. Some players do receive money from the federal and provincial governments, but they can still incur personal costs of $10,000 a season.

"It may not be the ideal situation for us to have to do this, but we're pay-to-play, and there has to be a way for us to fund our program," said Natalie Bendavid, 28, a Toronto teacher.

"The message we're sending out is a positive message. Some of the girls are different shapes and sizes but everyone looks really good.'

Bendavid plays in the front row and weighs 170 to 175 pounds, depending on the day, and is five-feet, six-inches tall.

"I've been told I'm the ideal body type because I have the strength to run over people," she laughed.

Now that's a cool way of looking at it. Rather than going for the SUNshine Girl swimsuit look, which no self-respecting athlete desires, these rugby players view their calendar pics as empowering.

Showing real muscles acquired through training, rather than stick limbs due to dieting now that's admirable.

"I want to be perceived as skilful at rugby and as someone who works hard and is passionate about a sport," Philips said.

This is the third calendar campaign for the women's national rugby team. The previous two were quite successful.

Peterborough native and now Victoria. B.C. resident, Barbara Mervin, a flanker with the squad, organized the project.

PARALYMPICS ON YOUTUBE

For everyone who was saddened that the Paralympics didn't get much TV time, there's a great collection of Beijing highlights online.

The most extensive coverage can be found on the International Paralympic Committee's Internet TV channel, www.paralympicsport.tv.

ParalympicSport.TV has also established a YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/paralympicsporttv, where athletes and spectators can upload their own material in addition to the material provided by ParalympicSport.tv.

SCHOLARSHIP WINNER

Toronto's Glenna Fraumeni is one of five national recipients of the 2008 Stacey Levitt Women and Sport Scholarship.

Fraumeni, 23, is a second-year health care student at Ryerson University and the University of Toronto.

She's participated in a wide variety of endurance events including a 750-kilometre paddle up the Yukon River and numerous ultra marathons.

Stacey Levitt was a top student-athlete who was hit by a car and killed while jogging in 1995. Stacey's parents, Cheryl and Ned Levitt of Toronto, chose the winners and provide the scholarships.


Videos

Photos