It's shaping up as another big year for the Goulburn Dirty Reds women's rugby side, who will get their pre-season underway this week.
Former Brumbies player Ash Mewburn will return as co-coach for the season, alongside former Reds player Peter Oliver. The pair are excited to build on the foundations established last season, and are welcoming new players to join the club, which has just signed a new major sponsor in the Hibernian Hotel.
The playing group's current core formed during the side's earlier incarnation as a sevens side. In 2019, the group stepped up into the Development 10s competition, going through the season undefeated and claiming a premiership at their first attempt. Last year saw them step up into the ACT Premier Division, taking on Tuggeranong, Royals, Wests and Uni-Norths in the Covid-19 interrupted season and making the semi-finals.
Players will gather at Poidevin Oval's clubhouse on Thursday 21 January from 6pm to hear from the coaching staff about the season ahead, play an introductory game of touch, followed by pizza.
"The season launch is a great opportunity for anyone who wants to try rugby out, or just wants to know more about the women's team in Goulburn," Mewburn said.
"Rugby truly is a sport for all shapes and sizes, all fitness and skills levels. If rugby is a sport that you're interested in having a crack at, we'd love to see you there. If you have a lot of experience or no experience at all, we want you to come along.
"Bring along girlfriends, sisters, aunties, mothers and grandmothers. Importantly, bring your runners and your enthusiasm on Thursday night.
"It's going to be a huge season of women's rugby. The team has a lot of potential to again make serious inroads in the ACT Premier Division, and it's going to be a fun year."
Oliver said the aim for the women's side in 2021 was to continue to build on last year's gains.
"I thought the team as a whole acquitted themselves really well and were genuinely competitive last season," Oliver said.
"You look at that first game against Wests Lionesses, which we won, and compare that to the semi-final against Uni Norths that we actually lost - I thought the improvement right throughout the squad over was outstanding.
"That's a real tribute to the work of last year's coaches Rob Sheekey and Ash Mewburn, and also reflective of the genuine buy-in from the team. Their willingness to invest their time, effort and desire to constantly improve was fantastic to see, and it got them into a position where they could have won more games than they did.
"If we can build on that, I think the side will be really well placed this year."
Last season wasn't just a watershed season for the Reds locally. It exposed a number of players to representative duties. Pearl Rakete, Paige Penning and Sass Cudaj were all members of the Brumbies Super W squad, with Rakete rewarded with valuable minutes on the field throughout the season.
In October last year, Rakete was joined by Reds teammates Bella Sheen, Jordan Brooker, Chloe Waddell, and Kelsey Betts in the Brumbies' inaugural City v Country representative game, with the locals impressing in torrential rain.
"There's a genuine representative pathway for Goulburn's women, and it was fantastic to see so many Reds deservedly earning a rep call up last year," Oliver said.
"If the playing group continues to improve the way it has over the past couple of years, I think it's quite feasible seeing a real contingent of Goulburn players pull on a Brumbies jersey in the coming years."
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