Central Coast Roosters captain Isabelle Kelly believes the newest addition to the Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Premiership have benefitted the most from the competition being suspended as it gave them even longer to come together as a team.
The Roosters will face the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in the first round of the revamped 2020 competition this weekend at Terry Lamb Complex, Chester Hill, on Saturday and Kelly can’t wait to see what her team will produce with seven teams having only seven rounds plus finals to battle it out for the title.
“I think in that first round we hadn’t really gelled completely as a team yet, I know the Sharks played really well and they deserved the win but we had a lot to improve on from that game and now we’ve had more time we’re actually a lot stronger compared to what we were then,” Kelly said.
“The last few weeks when we’ve been at training everyone’s been putting in a lot of effort and throughout COVID the girls got a lot of programs and everyone came back a lot fitter and stronger, which is quite surprising considering the circumstances.
“I know that I came back a lot fitter and stronger, just having a bit of time to work on my body and everything like that so I think it’s been a bit of blessing.
“I think everyone knew that going back into footy it wasn’t going to be one of those competitions where you can ease your way into it, it’s going to be one of those competitions where you get going straight away so it’s been very exciting and the girls are really keen to get back out there.”
As well as finding her way in a new team and working under a new coach in John Strange, Jillaroo and Origin representative Kelly will be captain of the side, something she hasn’t experienced before.
“I was captain in a Roosters NRLW game once but I got injured so I wouldn’t count that…I’ve never thought of it like this but this will be my first time captaining a side,” she said.
“I’m pretty chill about it, I’m not the kind of captain that really talks the talk, I think I lead more with my actions on the field.
“We’ve also got Claire Reed who is our vice-captain, she’s very experienced and she’s played a lot of sport with all of us as well so she knows what she’s doing and if I’m not there leading them around I’m sure she’ll be doing just fine.”
Over half of the players from the 2019 premiership-winning CRL Newcastle team are in the side and they will be further bolstered by Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Origin player Hannah Southwell and NSW Women’s Under-18’s Origin representatives Joeli Morris and Caitlan Johnston.
“We’ve got a lot of new girls so that’s helped, we’ve got Brydie Parker from Mounties and a few girls like Yasmin Meakes, who plays Rugby Union and has come from Scone, which has only made us a lot stronger,” Kelly said.
“Joeli has been running as our second halfback if anything was to happen to Mel and she’s been learning under her so I think that’s really helped her coming through.
“Caitlan is just a workhorse, she’s very aggressive in attack in defence and really strong up the middle so I think having a mix of older and younger players is good and they’ve also helped us as well because it takes us back to basics of the game.”