It was a chilly afternoon at Jubilee Oval in Mudgee's west end on Tuesday when the Mudgee Guardian went out to have a chat with the coach and players of the Mudgee Dragons Women's rugby league sides as they prepared for their upcoming six-game season.
Greg Ward, Coach of the U18s Women's Mudgee Dragons says numbers are up significantly from last year.
"The season starts this Sunday down here against Woodbridge with four grades: 13s; 15s; 18s and Opens. So the girls are all keen and ready to go," he said.
Also making news:
"Our numbers are up from last year. The Opens, I think we have something like 18-19 on the book. 16 for the U18s and roughly 16-17 for each the 13s and 15s. We didn't think we'd get a side, but yeah, the numbers have proven we can have the fourth side so that's good."
"We're appreciative for the Gulgong girls coming in and having a bit of a run. It definitely help boost our numbers for this season,"
Speaking with players from each age level, they all agreed full-contact footy is the way to go.
We have such a good culture that it carries onto the field, we found that last season as well.Claudia Shearman
Harriet Messner who plays in the Opens side said seeing so many familiar faces meant they can remain competitive against more experienced sides.
"So last season we started with fewer numbers just because it was the first time Mudgee had been in the comp," she said.
"But we ended up having a pretty strong side and we've been competitive throughout the season and it's good to have some familiar faces back this year with heaps of new recruits,"
"We've had a pretty good pre-season, we've been getting lots of numbers at training which is good. A few new girls to the team, so I suppose it will take some time to build combinations but yeah I think we will go alright."
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Claudia Shearman who also plays in the Opens side said they can thank a great team culture as one of the reasons they've been able to stay competitive against sides with representative players.
"I think we have such a good culture that it carries onto the field, and we found that last season as well," she said.
"Dubbo was really competitive and they obviously won the season last year and I think Orange will be pretty competitive as well." she said.
Looking forward to the season ahead, Coach Greg Ward said he's excited to see how far the teams can go after being knocked out in the semi-finals earlier this year.
"Yeah look, we missed out on making the grand final last year, a few of the girls probably half of them are back again for this round of six games," he said.
"There are high expectations, sure, but I'm not going to push them that hard to bust themselves. We're going to be a little bit limited on numbers this weekend with work commitments and some other things that are going on in the area but yeah, nah we should hopefully be able to go one step further."
Speaking of the upcoming season, you might have noticed that the 'season' is coming at a time when other rugby league sides are wrapping theirs up. Greg said he sees this as a positive move.
Get down and support the ladies. We need a big first game home ground crowd.Claudia Shearman
"So it's a bit odd, this year they kicked the season off at the start of the year, the women's tackle was earlier in the year; January, February. It was very hot for 'em. To try and line it up with the seniors stuff I think it's more so based around the group and the league tag commitments you've got with the seniors," he said.
"So this is sort of, you know the Western Women's Rugby League have sort of broken away from that. I'm not really up on the politics or anything like that at the moment. But you know, it's still a good thing - you can see the numbers,"
"We're coming into touch season and yet - have a look at the numbers here now,"
"It's six weeks, that's all it is. They've for six weeks of us coaches running 'em around and they've got six games. So it's pretty good."
When asked if there was anything else they'd like to add, Claudia Shearman spoke up with a simple request:
"Get down and support the ladies. We need a big first game home ground crowd," she said.
The action kicks off on Sunday, October 13 at Jubilee Oval from 10am.