The future of women’s rugby league is looking brighter by the day if the first ever Juniors to Jillaroos clinic at Kogarah late last month is anything to go by.
More than 180 girls from all over Sydney and as far away as Cooma, the ACT and Maitland took part under the watchful eyes of Cronulla Caringbah, NSW and Australian Jillaroos stars Ruan Sims, Maddie Studdon and Sammy Bremner as well as NSW coaching staff Ben Cross and Jamie Feeney.
It has already been a massive year for women’s rugby league in the area.
Cronulla Caringbah’s women’s side made history when they were crowned Sydney Metropolitan Women’s Rugby League premiers after downing Greenacre 26-22 in golden point extra time at Leichhardt Oval last month.
That followed on from the team making up the bulk of the Cronulla Sharks’ side that won the inaugural women’s nines match against St George Illawarra 16-12 in August.
The Sharks also provided seven players to the NSW team that downed Queensland for the first time in the interstate women’s challenge.
Jillaroos half Studdon said she was thrilled with the number of young players at the clinic.
“It’s the first time ever really doing the Juniors to Jillaroos [clinic],” she said.
“It’s good to see all the girls out here, I think there’s 180 girls which is pretty big for the first time ever and it’s just going to get even bigger.”
Bremner, the Jillaroos fullback, said the clinic was a good chance to attract some exciting new talent to the sport.
“When I first started playing for the Jillaroos we didn’t get as much exposure therefore days like this weren’t that possible because the girls didn’t know they had someone to look up to,” she said.
“And I think that now there’s a lot more exposure young girls know that there is a female elite team representing Australia and NSW.
“It’s their opportunity to come here and meet us and we can tell them a little bit about our story and hopefully get some up and coming NSW and Jillaroos girls.”
Feeney, who is also the NSWRL Performance Programs Manager, said the signs were positive for women’s contact rugby league.
“It’s great to see the numbers and the interest in playing the contact game,” he said.
“A lot of them when you ask around whether they play contact league yet they say they aren’t but they’d really love to.
“I’m looking forward to these girls developing their love for the game first, their passion and then getting their skills there and hopefully who knows they might wear the Blues jumper or the Jillaroos jumper in not so long.”
Next year is shaping up as an even bigger one for Cronulla Caringbah’s Jillaroos contingent, with Southern Cross Group Stadium at Woolooware chosen to host matches in the women’s rugby league World Cup in November 2017.