They head to Leichhardt Oval for a Women’s Grand Final showdown with a Cronulla-Caringbah side stacked with representative talent – but many of the Greenacre Tigers have already exceeded all prior expectations.
The Tigers, who achieved Sydney Metropolitan Women’s Rugby League success with their first premiership last year, headed into the 2016 season with the nucleus of their side intact, but also welcoming a number of players who had never picked up a ball before. Having qualified for Saturday’s decider from third position, captain Eliana Walton reflected on how far the newcomers had come.
“We still have the core group of girls that were in our team last year,” Walton told NSWRL.com.au. “But we’ve had a lot of new girls that have never played. I’ve got a couple of girls that have come over from Perth; they’re new to Rugby League and they’ve just improved so much.
“I’ve got girls that have never touched a footy before and are terrified in the tackles, but they just look like they’ve been playing for years.”
Walton, who was a part of the NSW Women’s historic 8-4 victory over Queensland in July, is part of an experienced brigade at the Tigers who have helped bring the rookies up to speed. This, Walton explains, forms a special dynamic in the side.
“I think it helps (the younger girls), having the experienced girls and the girls that have been around for a long time,” Walton said. “To run out side by side with them, it’s a good thing.
“I build my team on sisterhood on and off the field, so if they’re tight off the field and they know each other really well, on the field it just comes naturally to them,” the talented second-rower added. “We do a lot of extras stuff – every day they post their extras of what they’ve done on our Facebook page.”
If the Tigers are to go back-to-back, they must overcome a rampant Cronulla-Caringbah outfit boasting the likes of Sammy Bremner, Corban McGregor, Allana Ferguson, Maddie Studdon and Jillaroos skipper Ruan Sims. While many of the representative brigade have been absent for parts of the season, they have all come back on board to see the Sharks lift from fourth place into Grand Final qualification. It will be no easy task for Greenacre to take them down in the decider – but a focus on community work throughout the season, Walton says, has developed a special bond that will help the team on the field.
“We did a Sleep In Your Car for the homeless with the Embassy Church in Belmore,” Walton said. “It was only a snippet of what the homeless go through and the girls were just so humbled about that experience.”
“We’ve also done a lot of outside events like with the Canterbury-Bankstown community – we’ve done a 10k charity walk and run for the Embassy Church as well.
“Everything that we do on the field is just a bonus of what we do off the field.”