Western has turned heads at the Northern Country selection trials at Muswellbrook on Saturday.
Taking on Newcastle-Central Coast and then Group 21 in two games to kick-off their 2018 campaign, the Rams girls scored a win and a draw and left the northern fixtures as one of the more impressive outfits to emerge from the carnival.
Based on the commitment shown from the group of Western girls in trialing and training in the lead-up to Saturday’s games, Rams skipper and former Parkes player Ella-J Harris wasn’t surprised by the results.
But the northern half of the state certainly was.
“I think most people thought we’d struggle, but we left as one the better teams,” Harris said.
“We played Newcastle and they’ve been playing together for a while, they have a competition every winter. We just shot out of the blocks.”
As Harris said, Western bolted in its first clash of the day at Muswellbrook in 39 degree temperatures on Saturday.
Despite the not-so-footy-friendly conditions, the Rams girls – who included Sally Dwyer from Parkes – showed plenty of composure and scored tries through Harris, Claire Woolmington, Lailee Phillips, Sara Reyter and Maggie Townsend to run out 20-4 winners against the highly fancied Newcastle-Central Coast line-up.
Almost immediately after that victory, Western was back out on the field against Group 21 and momentarily led 8-4 until the hosts scored a late equalizer, securing an 8-all draw.
The entire Rams pack drew praise from Harris and forwards Haylee Lepaio and Jacky Lyden both scored tries in Western’s final match.
No conversions were taken at the carnival.
Harris said the Rams girls were “dusted after the first game” but performed admirably in the final clash to leave the northern carnival undefeated.
“It was amazing,” she said.
“We played back-to-back games ... they were a bit freesher but we hung in there.”
Western is likely to get much better as well, with the majority of the Rams squad named to play with Group 10 in the Western Women’s Rugby League premiership, which kicks off on February 24.
Week-to-week appearances as a group will only improve the impressive chemistry the side has already developed.
“I think everyone’s attitude is the same. We’re all making the extras effort and, based off what we did (on Saturday) and with the majority of us is in Group 10, we’re only going to get better,” Harris predicted.
“The skill on show was really impressive, there was hardly any drop balls. It was good, hard footy.”
Western will play in the Southern Country trials in March, with a Southern side then picked to take on Northern on April 14.
A Country team will then take on City prior to the Canberra Raiders and St George Illawarra NRL clash at Mudgee’s Glen Willow on May 20, where a NSW team will be picked to play in the women’s State of Origin.