YOU might think women's rugby is a comparatively recent phenomenon but a remarkable pioneer has died in Cardiff aged 106. Maria Eley played full-back for Cardiff Ladies in a wartime charity match at Cardiff Arms Park on Dec 16, 1917, when Newport won 6-0. Interestingly, reports suggest that the Cardiff team all wore protective headgear, which predates their male counterparts by some decades.
Maria remained a keen player until she married her husband, Hector, and concentrated on bringing up eight children. She attributed her longevity to a love of rugby and an aversion to cigarettes and alcohol. Away from rugby and family duties she chaired the senior citizens club at her native Cogan for 24 years and was still calling bingo until she was 101.
Daily Telegraph (London, England) (Jan 18, 2007): p016