The Wiradjuri Goannas were left slightly disappointed the opening round of the Western Women’s Rugby League (WWRL) season wasn’t what they wanted but just being back on the field was a massive positive.
There was a huge amount of excitement leading up to the weekend’s first matches in the revamped competition, but the Goannas traveled to Baradine only to find the Castlereagh League side was short of troops.
The match reverted to a nines fixture and the Goannas were winning 20-12 when the match was called early following an injury to a Castlereagh player.
“From last year I really thought Castlereagh had lots of growth and potential so it was a bit sad to see them struggling,” Goannas captain Amy Townsend said.
“But it was still a good first hit-out. There was obviously less contact in nines but it was still good to get some extra contact in the shoulders.”
Now in its second season, the WWRL has expanded to five teams.
The other match in round one saw a Harriet Messner-inspired Mudgee down Woodbridge Cup while the Panorama Platypi had the bye.
“It’s just so good to have the opportunity to play,” Townsend said.
“It’s a seven-week competition if you make it to the grand final and a lot of country areas don’t get things like this. So many of these girls live and breathe rugby league.”
Townsend was part of the Group 11 side which lost last year’s grand final to Group 10.
The Group format has been replaced by teams from various regions around the western area playing in three grades and the Goannas also won in the under 15s and under 18s on Saturday at Baradine.
The under-18s, coached by Shawn Todhunter, scored a 12-0 win over Castlereagh while the impressive under-15s, many of which were playing their first match of tackle, scored a convincing 42-20 victory.
The results were promising but the main thing for the Goannas was building culture and unity, something opens coach Gerry ‘Chicka’ Merritt has been keen to promote.
“I was lucky enough to talk to the under 15s and 18s before the game and culture is really important for us,” Townsend said, this being the first year of the Goannas club.
“Developing the game is something big which has been instilled in all the player. It’s not win at all costs.
“We’re the pioneers who are here to develop the game and make sure this competition doesn’t fall apart.
“It’s a real team environment.”
On the field in the opens, newcomers Emily Caton and Tasha Shaw both crossed to score and slotted in seamlessly after working with the side since training began in November.
“We’re really even across the park and the new girls have fit in with the culture we’e built. Everyone wants to go out and play,” Townsend added.
The Goannas side will face their first major test this weekend when they travel to Mudgee.
Mudgee held off a fast-finishing Woodbridge Cup side and won 36-22 on Saturday, many of the Dragons players featuring in their first tackle match.
“We definitely won’t be underestimating them at all,” Townsend said of ahead of the round two clash.
“Some of them play union and they’re only going to get stronger the more the competition goes.
“It’s a bit hard to prepare for a team you’ve never played before but we know they’ll be strong in all three grades.
“We won’t underestimate them but we’re going there to get the win. We’ve got a bit of a point to prove after being beaten by Group 10 in the grand final so there’s some fire in the belly.”
The Castlereagh League side is still open to interested players joining their side for the season.