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Jillaroo gives helping hand for girls tackle competition

Former Jillaroo Caryl ‘Chicka’ Jarrett is lending her talent and knowledge to try to get a junior girls Rugby League tackle competition up and running on the NSW mid-north coast.

Jarrett, a former Australian teammate of Tarsha Gale in the late 1990s, has just taken on the role of Nambucca Roosters women’s coach for the 2023 season.

She has answered the call for emerging Rugby League players in the Group 2 – Kempsey to Woolgoolga – who have never had any women’s tackle competition.

“A lot of people have always asked about it so there’s a group of people now trying to get it up and running,” local Anthony Donovan said.

“We’ve got an opportunity to put girls on a bigger pathway than just League Tag or touch footy.

A small committee was formed with NSWRL Group 2 Junior Rugby League officials, Anthony Donovan and his wife Relle, and others, to put out expressions of interest in the area for two ‘Come & Try’ days for 13-to-17 year-old girls. The first was held in Macksville on 25 March and the second session was held in Sawtell on 8 April.

Around 50 registrations were taken – 29 girls attending on the first day, and another 18 girls on the second.

“I have to give a special mention to the girls and parents for their dedication and commitment,” Donovan said.

“We did have less numbers in Sawtell, but that doesn’t reflect the hard work they have put in.”

The aim is to have a Group 2 v Group 3 girls tackle game as a curtain-raiser to the NRL Round 12 game at Coffs Harbour between the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks and the Newcastle Knights.

It is further hoped an Under 14s and Under 17s tackle competition can start in early June with at least four teams.

“We’ve got some amazing coaches committed this on a voluntary basis, like Caryl and (welfare officer-coach) Maurie Lonergan, who’s another legend in this area,” Donovan said.

The popularity and promotion of the NRLW players and clubs each year has helped drive interest, he added.

“I always encourage kids to play multiple sports when they’re young because each one has a different skill set,” Donovan said.

“For girls the AFLW, Rugby Sevens, Women’s Rugby Union, touch football and obviously the NRLW gives lots of options for young female footballers.

“So, it’s a two-pronged approach. Play sport because for women and girls now, there is plenty out there. League Tag and touch are two of those but more importantly they can now lead to Rugby League tackle, whereas before there was no pathway.

“The appetite is definitely there for Rugby League because the girls see the NRLW and Women’s State of Origin and then playing for Australia with the Jillaroos.”

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