In 10 years’ time, when it is hoped that women’s rugby league will be in a different orbit, events like Group 4’s fledgling women’s nines competition would have played a part in that happening.
On a hot Saturday afternoon at Ken Chillingworth Oval, the final round of that two-round competition was conducted before a healthy, appreciative crowd.
The five teams were not playing for a trophy, although a rep side was announced on Saturday night; it was, clearly, more about taking part.
And given that the tournament was initially cancelled due to a lack of player interest, it was especially heartening to see so many players in action over the two rounds.
It was also heartening to see how much it meant to them.
Gemma Wicks, who led Gunnedah to three wins from four matches, summed up the experience: “I’m speaking on behalf of the Bulldogs side … playing in the league nines side has opened all our eyes.
“We didn’t realise how much talent and how many girls were interested in tackle football. None of us girls thought we’d get picked for Group 4 [seven did, including Wicks].
“But I’m super proud of all the girls’ efforts on the weekend, especially the girls who only signed up at the last minute to help us get numbers.
“I’m over the moon that a girls tackle comp has been started. We need more games like we just had.”
On Saturday, Gunnedah beat a combined Bendemeer-Wee Waa side 20-4, then bested Boggabri 12-4. In the other matches, South West Robins 1 beat Boggabri 16-8, and South West Robins 2 downed Bendemeer-Wee Waa 20-0.
The Group 4 women’s nines team: Tenayah Woodward (Boggabri); Lana Bottrill (Gunnedah); Lauren Clarke (Boggabri); Rebecca Clay South West Robins); Zoe Darlington (SWR); Montana Ellsley (SWR); Zoe Fleming (Gunnedah); Ashley Haire (Boggabri); Jodie Howarth (SWR); Ebone Ison (Gunnedah); Chantel Leigh (SWR); Maria Monica (SWR); Yvonne Murphy (SWR); Joan O'Leary (Bendemeer); Billy-Jo Power (Gunnedah); Alma Saunders (Bendemeer); Toni Skulthorpe (SWR); Becky Smyth (Gunnedah); Gemma Wicks (Gunnedah); Tara Wilkinson-Ryan (Gunnedah). Coach: Adelaide Monica (SWR). Manager: Carley Howarth (SWR)