Well, what an exciting and WARM day back for the first round of 2017!

The GNSW Women’s competition was held at two separate venues, one down south at Ziems Park hosted by the Wollongong Mustangs and the other at UNSW David Phillips, home of the UNSW Raiders.

Excitement, nerves and heat were seen in both games however it was a great display of women’s football and one that will continue to get better over the course of the 2017 season.

GAME 1 – UTS Gators 22 def  North Sydney Rebels 14
The heat, along with small numbers and a lot of rookies on both sides made for a hard fought game.

Rebels Head Coach Alex Martin was impressed with the standard of gameplay from a completely new team.

“The game was really great. The girls on the field were very respectful of each other and despite a few big hits and aggressive pressure on the QBs, no one lost their cool and played a classy game.

The heat was definitely a factor late in the second half with several girls playing both ways fatigue was rampant but I’m super proud to say no one quit on me and they fought it out to the last second”

The Rebels, have two veteran players in Pier Pritchard (#90) and Nikki Morley (#40) (both formally NW Phoenix) leading the team in terms of experience both having won an Opal Bowl and competing with the NSW Coyotes. Pier has just returned from the Canada where she competed as a defensive back for the Women’s Outback at the 2017 WWC.

“Pier is certainly our stud athlete playing free safety and receiver. She has limited experience at receiver however she is already showing wonderful potential given her intimate understanding of defensive backs and how to best them. Nikki’s arm at QB is certainly something to watch, with only one season under her belt she’s showing poise in the pocket that not even our senior starter has.”

Pier Pritchard scored both TD’s for the Rebels, one was a TD pass thrown by Nikki Morley (QB) who then took it herself on the sneak up the middle for the 2pt Conversion Pier’s second score was the second half kickoff, returned for 6 but missed the conversion.

Other players to look out for are Nutta Ahipene and Mary Pickering at middle linebacker and defensive tackle respectively. They come from a strong rugby pedigree and are set to make QBs and running backs lives very difficult this season. Nutta was awarded the Rebels MVP for the round just gone for her efforts on defence leading the team in tackles.

Lastly, keep your eye on Taylor Ling at running back. Not sure yet, but she LIVES for contact and will run at anything so here’s hoping that continues.

UTS Gators Head Coach Tiffany Bosco was also impressed with her new look Gators, having suffered from losing a lot of seasoned veteran players since last year.

“We have small numbers and a lot of rookies so it will be a tough season”

There are a few familiar faces on the team roster namely those of Jodie Pearson, Selina Tokabobo and Nona Hu both being threats on both sides of the ball. All three have played for the NSW Coyotes and trialled for the Women’s Outback. UTS defence has always been strong but having veteran Pearson in at QB will definitely help get the ball moving on offence.

Ones to watch would definitely be the Pearson sisters Jodie (#1) and Chloe (#7) along with Michelle Crisp (#4) all scoring for the UTS Gators.

Once rugby is finished for the year, no doubt the UTS roster will bolster in numbers and with the drop back down to 7aside, UTS could be on the rise again.

“7 a side is what it is. I would have preferred 9 a side but if we get more teams and there are more games then I guess that’s good.”

GAME 2 – UNSW Raiders 12 def NorthWestern Phoenix 6

The 2016 Opal Bowl rematch was always going to be a game to watch.

The very different looking UNSW Raiders and Phoenix weren’t the same teams that fought for the championship last year.

Phoenix Coach James McLean Horton commented
“Overall the feeling was good. We played a formidable side. It’s undeniable that the Raiders have dominated and really held the yardstick for women’s football over the last 2 years in GNSW, so when we come up against a team like that, it is certainly a challenge we really look forward to”

The Phoenix played great defence despite struggling for numbers.

“It was a shame that we had so many players out for the weekend. We only had two subs on the sideline, we had three girls playing sick and we suffered a broken bone from the game pretty early on, but I think, all things considered, the girls really exceeded the coaching staffs expectations and even their own.”

One player to look out for;  Kylie Trappel had a great game, played both sides of the ball and pushed through on both O and D line. Renee Targett (#24) was also a star performer and that showed with her efforts on the kick return and scored the only TD for the Phoenix.

Targett and QB Rachel Sullivan along with Vanessa Hu (#87) will be the veterans that lead the Phoenix in terms of experience, with Targett returning from playing Safety at the WWC and Hu playing at representative level for the NSW Coyotes.

Coach Horton adds

“Certainly looking forward to playing the Raiders again. I love seeing the passion on both sides of the ball, and I know that while the teams are bitter rivals, there is a tonne of on-field respect between the two. That’s something I hope that will continue to cultivate off the field as it will help grow the sport for women across NSW.”

UNSW Raiders Head Coach Dane Robertson knew coming into the first game of the season missing key players on both offence and defence would be something the Raiders would have to overcome.

“While you have to be happy starting your season (1-0), I would have preferred it not to be as close as it was. We had some issues blocking the Phoenix defence early but managed to get in a groove at the end. Our defence made some good plays but inexperience beat us at times. The Phoenix put up an incredible fight with low numbers.”

UNSW is moving into new season missing key players from last year, however hold a strong veteran line with experience in the form of Outback representatives Kirstie Bridge (#10) and Renae Hahn (#43) and NSW Coyotes representatives Evette Lichaa (#80), Stacey Speer (#7) and Shiloh Phillips (#5).

The UNSW coaching staff has also had a makeover with veteran players Hayley Tagaloa Smith and Kate Gardiner joining the coaching staff as Offensive and Defensive coordinators. Looking forward to next week the Raiders will be focussing on at improving fundamentals and consistency breaking up the ACT passing game.

Robertson notes the move back to 7aside
“It’s unfortunate that the League was forced to make the change to 7aside. While the change takes us a step away from the ultimate goal – this is 11 aside football; it does highlight the importance of recruitment and recruitment strategies across the league.”

Players to watch from UNSW this season will be on both sides of the ball with rookie RB Emma Furneaux (#47)  “she is quick and agile, expect her to see the ball plenty – both out of the backfield and catching downfield.”
Veteran OL Te’Shan Tofilau (# is now the leader of the O-Line for the Raiders as the remaining ‘Big Dog’ of the 2016 unit. “Be ready to play hard-nosed football lining up against her”

On the Defence, keep an eye on veteran Kirstie Bridge (#10) fresh from her stint as LB for the Outback.
“Bridgey is an explosive player who leads the Raiders in tackles for the 2016 season. Expect more of the same in 2017.”

In what could be one of the best matchups in the league, rookie Justine Vave (#12) “She’s possibly a spy, Justine is sister to Outback rep Pier Pritchard from the Rebels. Also playing DB this year expect Justine to have the same physicality when it comes to making tackles”

Gridiron NSW Women’s Week 1 Wrap Up

Stacey Speer

Stacey Speer from Women's Gridiron Leagues of Australia

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