A bumper crowd of 1362 packed Ian Walsh Field, Eugowra on Sunday 24 November for the Western Women’s Rugby League (WWRL) Grand Finals and the last competitive Rugby League games in the Western Region in 2020.
The four deciders (u13s, 15s, 18s, and opens) were a culmination of the seven-week competition which saw more than 600 female participants from across the Western Region playing a weekly women’s 13-a-side tackle competition.
The first game of the day saw the undefeated Vipers Women’s Rugby League take on the Mudgee Dragons in the Under 13s match. It was the Dragons who came out breathing fire, rushing in two early tries through dummy-half Charlee Barnes. A third try of the game to Dragons sent them out to a 14-0 lead and the desperation of the Vipers side was palpable.
Vipers showed why they were undefeated leading into the Grand Final, storming back into the game with three unanswered tries, levelling the match at 14 all. The final moments of the match were tense with both sides producing errors under pressure and offering the opposition attacking opportunities but eventually it was the underdogs, Mudgee Dragons who emerged victorious 20-14.
Mudgee’s barnstorming front rower Lily Ward was named Player of the Game for her bustling performance while Vipers Georgie Barrett was awarded Player of the Competition for the Under 13s, giving some comfort for her side’s loss.
In the Under 15s Grand Final another undefeated side, Woodbridge Women’s Rugby League, entered the game as favourites. They were looking for back-to-back titles while their opponents, the Wiradjuri Goannas were looking for improvement and redemption after suffering a 40-0 defeat in a previous encounter with Woodbridge.
Despite showing great character and a marked improvement in skill, the Goannas were no match for a classy Woodbridge outfit who capped off their undefeated season with a 26-12 win. Libby Peschka dominated the ruck and the middle of the field and produced a match defining try. Her efforts saw her awarded Player of the Game while second-row forward Taylor Keppie capped off a Woodbridge clean sweep, taking out the Player of the Competition award for the 15s.
The Goannas and Vipers were to meet in the Under 18s Grand Final as well as the Opens decider with the Goannas being the form team in both competitions after going through undefeated.
In the Under 18s, the Vipers stormed out to a 14-0 lead, placing the Goannas under pressure they had not experienced to date in the competition. With her side down by 14, India Draper began to impose herself on the game, eventually scoring four unanswered tries. Whilst the Vipers managed to score a late try and provide a grandstand finish, it wasn’t enough to get them home and the Goannas were crowned victors 26-22.
Fittingly, Draper was awarded Player of the Game for scoring all four of her side’s tries while Goannas hooker and 2019 Western Rams Opens representative, Taneka Todhunter, was awarded Player of the Competition. The award caps off a stellar year for Todhunter who along with representing Western Rams at the 2019 Country Championships, has also earned selection in the 2020 Sydney Roosters Tarsha Gale Cup extended squad.
The WWRL Opens Grand Final pitted the Minor Premier Wiradjuri Goannas against the Vipers WRL with the Vipers looking to cap a fairy-tale entry into to the WWRL with a maiden Premiership.
Things were going to plan for the Goannas after they opened the scoring through fullback Emily Caton and took an 8-0 lead into the main break. NSW Women’s Origin coach Andy Patmore, who was a guest on the day, asked observers who the players were to watch with general consensus being prop Ebony Watson could turn the game.
Watson shrugged off a relatively quiet first half to completely stamp her dominance on the match in the second stanza. She constantly bent the Goannas defence, taking hard carries from her own end and setting up the support runners around her with deft off-loads.
Watson was awarded Player of the Game for her efforts as her side completed a boil-over victory 20-12 while Woodbridge Women’s RL player Sarah Archer was awarded the Player of the Competition award for the Opens division, polling a remarkable 10 out of a possible 12 votes.