Kosovan women's rugby pioneers Balkans Lynx Rugby Club are the fourth and final organisation to be shortlisted for the 2018 Rhino Grass Roots Rugby Award.
The Pristina-based rugby club is the country's first-ever women's rugby club and was set up in 2017 by American Bronwyn Jones together with coaches Mark Barrett and Simon Gill, who hail from England and Ireland.
In a society where 'it's not even common for women to go to the gym', the Balkans Lynx Rugby Clubs has managed to build a squad of 25 players and started to compete competitively – albeit having to travel outside of Kosovo for matches to places such as Bulgaria, due to being the only women's side in the country.
Bronwyn and Balkans Lynx Rugby Club have also played a key role in the wider game in Kosovo, helping to put together the country's first-ever Rugby Federation – the main picture is the side celebrating its formation – and also meeting the International Olympic Committee. They're now applying for funding from Rugby Europe and a distant dream is even a place at Tokyo 2020.
Football pitches are the only option for training in Kosovo
But perhaps the biggest impact of the club has been on the wider society, where Bronwyn has helped challenge perceptions. “With the guys and girls, you have to explain a lot of the culture around rugby, about tolerance, respect, and diversity, which is such a good thing in Kosovo, especially when you look at the way the women are treated,” says Bronwyn. “When you start playing rugby you know that you’re a rugby player, that’s it."
Reg Clark, CEO of Rhino, said of the nomination: "Balkans Lynx Rugby Club are true pioneers of grass roots rugby and a very worth nominee – they've achieved so much in such a short time and are making a real difference to their community and society in Kosovo."
Balkans Lynx Rugby Club are joined by United World Games, Shibuya International Rugby Club and SOS Kid Aid as finalists. The winner will be announced on 27th December 2018.
To find out more about Balkans Lynx Rugby Club, visit facebook.com/RugbyLynx/
Previous winners of the Rhino Grassroots Rugby Award:
2015 TAG RUGBY TRUST (UK)
2016 KAMPUCHEA BALOPP (Cambodia)
2017 SKRUM (Swaziland)