Steelers and Knights in Grand Final Face-Off

Updated: May 2, 2019
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Two regional-based sides in the NSWRL Tarsha Gale Cup – the Illawarra Steelers and Newcastle Knights – will meet in the Grand Final on Saturday and both coaches believe the Tarsha Gale, along with CRL women’s competitions are giving players the opportunity to achieve higher honours.

Having witnessed the benefit of the new pathways being created for Women’s Rugby League, Knights Coach Josh Potapczyk believes the introduction of the CRL Central Hunter Combined Women’s Competition last year; which featured over 500 players competing across Under-14, 16, 18 and Open-Age divisions – will help to set the standard for the Tarsha Gale Cup moving forward.

“There has definitely been more talent identification throughout the past six to twelve months at local school gala days as well as the Central Hunter Combined competition, which gave us the opportunity to assess players in an 11-aside format,” Potapczyk said.

“An increase in participation in Women’s Rugby League has been a massive positive to see out of our results from last year.

“Girls are seeing there is a pathway now and it’s something they can pursue and work towards so that’s been really pleasing to see.

“What made me really proud of our results again this year is that we can continue to inspire the girls from the region that are your 12 and 14-year old’s that look to these girls now and go ‘I want to be that one day.’”

The Knights beat the previously undefeated Steelers 24-22 in Round 7 but Potapczyk knows Saturday’s Final will be a big challenge for his team; he will be looking to his senior players to help lead the younger girls around the park.

“I think experience certainly counts in games like this and we’d be looking to those senior girls in the squad like Caitlan Johnston, Olivia Kernick and Joeli Morris – they’ve really stood up this year and I’ll be looking to those three to make sure we’re on the front foot.

“Lacey has got the Minor Premiership under the belt with his girls so I know they’re going to be very fired up to come out and try and change the result – there was only two points in it last time.”

Steelers Coach Daniel Lacey says a Finals berth is something that club has been building towards for the last three years and believes competitions like the Tarsha Gale and the CRL 9’s are crucial for the development of Women’s Rugby League.

“There’s that many young girls playing rugby league now off the back of State of Origin and NRLW, they all want to play it so they’re all coming through,” Lacey said.

“90 percent of the team were picked off the back of Illawarra 9’s, which is a competition that is beneficial for girls who don’t play week in week out because it gives them a taste of what could be and for our more experienced players it’s a bit of fun and we can identify talent from there.

“Every time we run these tournaments it unearths some new talent and we are getting to identify girls for our pathway out of it, for example the Sam Bremner Cup – that tripled in numbers last year.

“The more we can keep them in these junior teams it’s going to bring through your Keeley Davis’ and players like that who are 18 year’s old and ready to go.”

The Illawarra Steelers v Newcastle Knights Tarsha Gale Cup Grand Final will kick-off at 11am, at Bankwest Stadium in Sydney on Saturday, 4th May and will be live streamed courtesy of nswrl.com.au.

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