by Glen McCullough
THE numbers tell the story.
Grass-roots rugby union on the Darling Downs is surging in popularity with the sport enjoying a major spike in playing numbers.
Led by increased junior participation, the explosion of women's rugby and the addition of Highfields to the Risdon Cup have helped introduce new players to a variety of competitions.
"Darling Downs rugby is reaching record highs in growth and participation,” Downs Rugby development officer Dan Birrell said this week.
"Our junior and teenage club rugby numbers are up 90 registrations or around 9% to 1130 kids this season,” he said.
"We've also got 40 girls in a new under 15 sevens comp this year and around 100 ladies from seven clubs playing in the open sevens competition.
"There are six schools that classify rugby as a term three sport and about 600 players from across 17 schools will be participating in the South West Series when it starts in term four.
"So whether it is the 15-player format or sevens competitions rugby on the Downs is certainly going through an exciting expansion.
"It all goes well for rugby's future growth in the region.”