Western Rams womens coach Jessica Skinner is hoping to use this weekend’s Northern Country Gala Day in Muswellbrook as a chance to work on the defensive aspects of her squad’s game.
Boasting a group with natural attacking flair, Skinner concedes adapting from league tag to tackle football has been a challenge, but with some seriously good athletes at her disposal she believes the group will learn quickly.
Western will play matches against a combined Newcastle/Central Coast side and a Group 21 outfit, but Skinner believes her squad will gain some positive exposure as they head towards NSW Country trials next month.
“Our first hitout was on January 20, and we’ve been meeting on a weekly basis since then,” she said.
“We get together in Manildra for a training run. It’s not always easy because of the distance but the girls have really been putting in a massive effort.”
Group 10 players dominate the squad, with 12 of the 18 players selected coming out of that competition.
Shayana Naden from Gilgandra is the lone Castlereagh player, while Nyoka Boney (Dubbo Westside), Demi Wilson (Dubbo CYMS), Brittany Naden (Wellington), Sally Dwyer (Parkes) and Maggie Townsend (Forbes) make up the Group 11 contingent.
“There’s a lot of talent in this squad, particularly in attack because all of the girls have been playing the League Tag and it’s about evasion and ball skill,” Skinner said.
“Transferring that and picking up the tackling element is new to all of them, but they are fast learners because they have never been taught to do it other ways.
“This weekend will be a good chance for us to get a guide as to where the girls are at, and where they need to improve.”
The next step for the Western girls will be a trip to Yass next month to trial for Country selection, with that squad to play against City in the curtain-raiser to the NRL match between St George-Illawarra and Canberra in Mudgee on May 20.
“It’s really an exciting time because there are pathways for girls now,” Skinner said.
“The league tag was a great stepping stone but to be playing tackle now, the same as the men, and having a chance to be picked up by NRL clubs for that competition is terrific. It’s about time it happened.
“The Jillaroos are also picking up a lot more exposure and it is good to see womens rugby league getting the support it deserves.”
WESTERN: 1.Katelyn Phillips (Orange Hawks), 2. Elise Wood (Bathurst St Pat’s), 3. Sally Dwyer (Parkes), 4. Grace Mooney (Blayney), 5. Claire Woolmington (Bathurst Panthers), 6. Rebecca Ford (Orange Hawks), 7. Ella Harris (Orange Hawks), 8. Amy Copping (St Pat’s), 9. Lailee Phillips (Orange Hawks), 10. Haylee Lepaio (St Pat’s), 11. Nyoka Boney (Dubbo Westside), 12. Jacky Lyden (Orange Hawks), 13. Sara Reyter (Orange), 14. Shayana Naden (Gilgandra), 15. Demi Wilson (Dubbo CYMS), 16. Brittany Naden (Wellington), 17. Nicole Schneider (Bathurst Panthers), 18. Maggie Townsend (Forbes).