Minor premiership for Muswellbrook line-up

BY ALEX TIGANI

Gary Jones added another chapter to his memorable journey at the Muswellbrook Rams.

The successful coach helped guide the Rams’ under-17s women’s tackle side to a minor premiership in 2021 after his line-up finished the season with a 12-0 record.

He hopes to use the side’s recent dominance as a launching pad for season 2022.

“We want to have a crack again, this year was a bit of unfinished business,” Jones told The Hunter River Times.

“I knew that we were probably going to struggle to get the competition going again but I was really interested to see how we would go in a grand-final situation.

“That’s the true test, you can be good all year but you have to win it on the day.”

This year’s line-up featured members from last year’s under-17 side, which faced a 20-6 grand final defeat to Wests under Jones, as well as the under-15 premiership line-up (which celebrated a 12-8 grand final win over Raymond Terrace).

While the Rams’ premiership talents Lily McNamara (league leading points’ scorer), Ellie Ferries, Evie Jones and Zahara Good would help bolster the side they were without Isla Johnston and Jessica Foreman, both sidelined due to knee injuries, before Amara Francic suffered an ACL injury in Round 1.

“A few of us were at Orange for touch footy regionals and were interested how they would go in Round 1 because Wests won it last year,” he reflected.

“We were shocked when we heard we beat them 50-4.

“We were lucky enough to secure around five-six girls who had not played a game before and a couple of girls who had returned.

“Abbey Chesworth has played a lot of touch footy but she played a lot of different positions; covering them out of necessity.

“Lili Thurlow is an untapped talent, she just looked like she was made for rugby league.

“Kyah Johnston from the Denman league tag system and played in the Muswellbrook tackle side that won two years ago.

“They were attacking weapons, fit girls and they know the elements of the game.”

Leah Ollerton also finished the season second on the league’s leading try scorer list with 12 (one behind Raymond Terrace’s Kyana Patten).

Jones hopes members of this line-up will be considered for the Newcastle Knights’ Tarsha Gale squad (following the footsteps of recent trio Sophie Clancy, Jules Kirkpatrick and Matilda Jones).