JESS Skinner has long been driven by her passion to spark growth and create pathways for female rugby league players, the sort of pathways, she says, "I didn't have".
And 2021 looks like a year the dedicated women's rugby league coach will fulfill that wish.
Skinner, from the northern reaches of the Western Rams division, is currently working with clubs across the area to find the best under 16s players who will take place in a new academy program.
While there is the very real prospect those talents may not have an actual representative competition to play in come 2021 - that hinges on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic - Skinner is determined to forge ahead.
She knows exposing the young talents within the region to an elite program now will better prepare them for the future when an opportunity to compete as Western Rams does arise.
"The talent that is coming through is just unbelievable," Skinner said.
"I just want the opportunities that I didn't have for these girls, that's all it is. We just didn't have this when I was a kid. It's about growing the game."
That growth will, Skinner expects, allow Western to nominate a side in the Lisa Fiaola Cup - a NSWRL competition run for under 16s girls.
When those games are set and it's an annual event we will already be 12 months ahead of itJess Skinner
In 2019, the last time the Lisa Fiaola Cup was run, teams like the Penrith Panthers, Parramatta Eels, Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, Illawarra Steelers, Newcastle Juniors, Canberra Raiders, St George Dragons, Wests Tigers, Maitland District, Central Coast Roosters and Redfern All Blacks (representing the South Sydney district) competed.
If it comes to fruition, it'll be the first time a Western women's side has played in a NSWRL competition.
"We're just getting ready for that, we're looking ahead. It's more of an under 17s team potentially for the Lisa Fiaola Cup," Skinner added.
"We don't know if that comp is going ahead, it's all COVID related, so we're just trying to get our current 16s in an academy style program because eventually there will be a comp for 17s."
The prospect of having a Rams side in that premiership will only enhance Western's stance as one of the bush's best female league player breeding grounds.
With Kaitlyn Phillips making her NRLW debut with the Roosters in 2020, the pathway for young girls is already clear.
But now this sort of added exposure will fast-track the already meteoric rise someone like Phillips has enjoyed.
Skinner says this concept, along with the continued boom of the Western Women's Rugby League competition, which was run in October and November again in 2020, will ensure Rams female league players continue to turn heads.
"To see their growth from 2019 to now, it's unbelievable," Skinner said looking back at the 2020 WWRL competition, especially the under 16s title race.
"So this is about trying to get a base, for those under 16s who are turning 17 next year, giving them a path I guess.
"We want to be ready when it happens, when those games are set and it's an annual event we will already be 12 months ahead of it by having those girls in that academy style training once a month and doing what elite players do."
The new academy program will start in April.
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