WHEN Western first entered a women's side in the New South Wales Rugby League Country Championships it was a struggle to find players, now five years on it's a struggle to narrow down which talents to include.
It's why coach Andrew Pull is so excited about what lies ahead for 2023.
When Pull found himself as head coach of the Western Rams women this season, stepping up from an assistant role when Jess Skinner was unable to continue, he said it was "pretty much only for the one year."
But having seen the glut of talent on show in the recently completed Western Women's Rugby League (WWRL) season, Pull's back on deck and says he "can't wait" to see the opens side in action.
He's not only hungry for Western to do better than this year's sixth placing come the 2023 titles, he's got the faith they can do it too.
"To start with we had a lot of speed, but now that they've been playing footy for awhile they're starting to make space for the speed," Pull said.
"We are seeing some really skilful football.
"Women's rugby league out here is still fresh as this was only our sixth comp and they're only playing over 10 weeks, but credit to all the coaches, and the players are only going to get better with more footy."
Helping players improve is why Pull first got involved in coaching women's rugby league.
Seeing players respond and improve has fuelled his passion to stay involved.
"When we [WWRL] first got going I was the Woodbridge president and agreed to fund the first side into the women's comp, but I never actually got fully involved," he said.
"But after the second season, I had to run the water one day, I could see how much it meant to the girls to improve ... that's what got me back into coaching.
"Seeing how keen and eager they were to be rugby league players, I'm probably not surprised how far the comp has come because they're so committed and so dedicated."
Following the conclusion of the 2022 WWRL spring season, Pull named an initial opens training squad of 23 players.
With some of that 23 trialling with WNRL clubs, the finalised squad won't be revealed until December 21.
But there is one player who is a lock for the 2023 Country Championships.
It's Goannas second rower Rebecca Smyth. While she's previously played rugby union for Australia and this season skippered the ACT Brumbies Super W outfit, she's also one the the region's finest league players.
"Bec Smyth, it was a two-tier signing. One she's an incredible athlete but two, I didn't just sign her to play, I signed her as a mentor," Pull said.
"We've named five players from the under 18s squad into the opens squad. They've got enormous skill and potential already and I'm hoping Bec can teach them how to be professional.
"Bec was really chuffed at that. I'm really looking forward to working her."
As back-to-back WWRL opens premiers, a handful Panorama Platypi players were part of the initial squad of 23 and are a strong chance of having their names on the list once it's finalised.
Pull is excited to see what they can do in the green and white, but it's the same way he feels about players from all the clubs who are in line for representative honours.
"The Platypi girls that are in the side, they offer speed, and we've also got a couple of brutes in there that are just so strong and so impressive," Pull said.
"They'll fit around what we've got from all the other clubs. I think the side is going to be amazing.
"Just the different strengths all the sides have got now. Goannas' big forward pack got them to the grand final, Bathurst [Platypi] have a good forward pack but they got there off their back line.
"One of the great things I had when the initial 23 was finalised, I rang every single player and the positive attitude that came out of every single one of them."
As part of the build up to the 2023 Country Championships, Western has planned a trial against the Bulldogs which will be played on Orange on January 14.
"That will be another opportunity for the girls to play against a high level, I can't wait to see them in action," he said.
"Our first team meeting was amazing, it was full of positive attitude. I really can not wait."
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