Melissa Gnojek—-Rugby International

 Resolven might not have a women’s rugby team but it does have women rugby players. Charlotte Griffiths and Melissa Thomas, to name two, and now 18 year old Melissa Gnojek .

Originally Melissa joined the Resolven Juniors mixed team as under 9’s and played alongside Wales Under 18’s player Bradley Roderick for about 2 seasons. Melissa first love at this time however was Acrobatics a hobby she had pursued since she was 6 years old.  Melissa thrived within the discipline winning numerous competitions.  She also was part of Western Warriors a local cheerleading squad again competing nationally.

Melissa first got back in to rugby around the age of 15 when  Sioned Harries the current no 8 for Wales Women started a girls rugby team in Ysgol Gyfun Ystalyfera.  Sioned recognised that Melissa had a natural talent for the game and during one match made the comment “if Melissa played rugby she would get a Cap”.  Melissa joined NPT Hawks in the summer of 2016.  The Hawks is an initiative by the WRU to create Girls rugby hubs in each of the Rugby Regions. Melissa was also attending Bonymaen RFC who were trying to establish a girls youth side.   Sioned Harries encouraged Melissa to attend an open talent ID session for the Ospreys Girls Under 18 team.  93 girls attended that session and around 40 made the original cut.  Josh Humphreys, Head Coach, has since told Melissa that she only just made that cut and that they took a chance on her because of her lack of experience and because she didn’t have a club.

Melissa then signed for Seven Sisters Youth and made the final Ospreys squad selection and after her very first season at the Ospreys was named Back of the Year and nominated for the Ospreys Under 18’s most promising player at the main Ospreys awards.  In April 2017  Melissa was selected to play for West Wales vs East Wales and scored a great try under the watchful eye of Wales Women Head Coach Rowland Phillips.  Melissa went on to complete 2 further seasons with the Ospreys winning Ospreys Most Promising Player at the end of both seasons. Melissa Captained the side for her final season.

In April 2018 as part of Rowland Phillips plan to develop young talent in readiness for the Women’s World Cup 2021, an Emerging Wales Women’s side was announced to play Emerging England in the Principality Stadium.  Melissa was amongst those selected to play and they Beat The English!!!  The following year 2019 Melissa was selected again to play for Emerging Wales and was proudly named as Co-Captain of the side and they beat the English Again!

Melissa has recently played her first game for the Senior Ospreys Women team and has been selected in the Wales Under 18’s Sevens squad to play a Home Nations tournament.

There is a lot of time and commitment given By Melissa (and her parents) she is currently training every day between Seven Sisters, Ospreys and travelling to WRU National Centre of Excellence at the Vale Resort to train with the Wales sevens team.  Melissa’s natural ability for the game may run in the family on both sides with both her paternal grandfather and maternal great great grandfather playing for Neath, but it is Melissa’s commitment and desire to achieve that drives her own.  Melissa is often told that she is very coachable and it is this quality that continues to see her develop and improve her game.

Melissa does however keep her hand in with Acrobatics and Contemporary Dance by coaching and teaching when she can at her Auntie’s Dance School – X-Qlusive Dance Company.  These along with Rugby all require teamwork as well as individual skill and Melissa  has a real flair for coaching and encouraging others to do their best.

Over the past 3 years Melissa has seen vast improvements in the Women’s Game and the promotion of the sport.  There is still a long way to go to equal the Men’s game but steady progress is being made.