The Westfund Ferguson Cup's heavyweights in defending premiers Bathurst Bulldogs, CSU Bathurst, West Wyalong and Orange Emus all opened their 2019 campaigns with wins last weekend, but one of the real highlights was the competitive performances of the competition's debut outfits.
Forbes, Dubbo Kangaroos, Wellington and Narromine all made their debuts in Saturday's opening round and while none were able to pick up victories all four showed plenty of promise, enough to suggest they could trouble plenty this season.
Dubbo's task was the toughest against Bulldogs and they went down 47-nil, while Narromine fought hard in their 33-12 defeat to Mudgee and Wellington were gallant in going down 28-5 to the Claire Woolmington-inspired students.
Woolmington picked up where she left off last year, the reigning player-of-the-year scoring a round one hat-trick to inspire CSU's victory.
The Platypi were equally as impressive at Grinsted Oval. While they went down 45-24, Emus scored a couple of late tries to blow that scoreline out after the hosts, for the most part, kept up with the greens.
"It was a promising start, I hope all the other clubs with sides new to the competition started well too," Forbes coach Tom Macleay said.
"We weren't really sure what to expect but we knew the Emus side would be strong given they were a force in this competition last year and the individual talent they've got in their side, but I think we matched it with them in a lot of aspects of the game and it's nice to get that kind of benchmark early in the season.
"We'll just have to keep working on the things we need to but I'm confident we can do well this season, judging on that performance."
LillyAnn Mason-Spice, a known superstar of the competition, was particularly impressive for the Platypi and scored a double, while April Townsend and skipper Kate Loneragan were strong too.
Em McDonald, returning to the greens after her debut Super W campaign with the ACT Brumbies, crossed the stripe twice for Emus and nailed five of seven shots at goal in a player-of-the-game effort.
"It was a really good start, there's a few things to work on obviously but it was good to blow the cobwebs out with a win," Emus assistant coach Jeremy Reay said.
"We know we have a lot of points in us with some of the exciting young talent we've got and that showed, but I was impressed with our defensive effort too.
"It might not look that way given we conceded 24 points but there was a couple of runaway tries in that and some opportunistic points too, we held them out for a couple of extended passages and that's a really good sign."
Reay heaped praise on the Platypi too. Although they didn't know what to expect from the new side he did admit he hadn't predicted them being so competitive on debut, purely because it was their maiden appearance.
"They did really well. There's some faces in that side pretty well known in the competition so it's good to see they've got the chance to play with Forbes now and I think they'll really shake a few sides up this year," he said.
"Having more teams in the competition is a really great thing, the women's game is growing every year."
West Wyalong made light work of the trying Harden She Devils, winning 97-nil on the back of a 27-point effort from Kenesha Stevens, while in the round's other games Orange City downed Cowra-Canowindra 5-nil, and Temora edged out Cootamundra 34-33.
- ORANGE EMUS 45 (Em McDonald 2, Sarah Archer, Nikita Campbell, Amanda Ferguson, Tabua Tuinakauvadra, Lailee Phillips tried; McDonald 5 conversions) def FORBES PLATYPI 24 (LillyAnn Mason-Spice 2, April Townsend, Shannon Hurley tries; Meaghan Kempson 2 conversions)
- TEMORA TUSKERS 34 (Nicole Jordan 3, Helen Narayan, Dana Seward, Courtz Horan tries; Jordan 2 conversions) def COOTAMUNDRA TRI-COLOURS 33 (Laura Miller 2, Annabelle Heggston, Georgie Heggston, Melinda Cook tries; Miller 2, Annabelle Heggston 2 conversions)
- BATHURST BULLDOGS 47 (Kirsten Howard 2, Mel Waterford, Gabrielle Fahy, Alicia Carr, Georgie Rich, Haylee Lepaio, Tidarat Nongkhu, Edwina Ulberg tries; Kate Gullifer conversion) def DUBBO KANGAROOS 0
- WEST WYALONG REDBACKS 97 (Kenesha Stevens 3, Anna Wood 2, Bec Ball 2, Brodie Ford 2, Lauree Tickle 2, Julie Maslin, Sam Whittaker, Brianna Mills, Krystal Fyfe tries; Stevens 6, Ford 5 conversions) def HARDEN SHE DEVILS 0
- MUDGEE WOMBATS 33 (Gemma Williams, Rita Palm, Chantel Burgess, Helen Blackmore, Christina Cooper tries; Blackmore 4 conversions) def NARROMINE GORILLAS 12
- CSU BATHURST 28 (Claire Woolmington 3, Maddison Thompson tries; Bridie Gordon 4 conversions) def WELLINGTON REDBACKS 5
- ORANGE CITY LIONS 5 def COWRA-CANOWINDRA 0
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