Indigenous Women enjoy best ever lead-up
The Indigenous Women's All Stars side will be ready to go when they meet the Women's All Stars on February 13 at Suncorp Stadium after a new sponsor enabled them to put more work into their preparation than ever before.
Eora TAFE has come on board in a welcome boost the Dean Widders-coached side, which is starting to build continuity from previous years and features just five debutants this time around .
Skipper Tallisha Harden told NRL.com that one of the benefits of having a sponsor was a pre-season camp a month before training got into full swing.
"To know that we were able to have that camp gave everyone confidence in the direction that women's footy is headed and to know that we've got people backing us and supporting us is also a big confidence boost for the girls," she said.
Speaking at a training session on Mascot Oval, Harden added that access to a well-prepared ground for training as well as access to things like gear and strapping was a huge boost.
"We've been really lucky that Eora have come on and sponsored us and given us an opportunity to actually be in camp together this week," she said.
"Usually we just have one selection camp and the camp before the week starts but we've been given an absolutely awesome sponsor who's given us the opportunity to train a couple of weeks out which is really good because we've got a couple of new girls learning the new systems and learning how to play women's footy essentially so it's been a good preparation for everyone."
With a regular backbone of more experienced players and a video review the night before last Saturday's Mascot session, it made it even easier for the new players to adjust, Harden added.
"[The video review] was good for us to actually see some of the things we didn't do as well last year and try and rectify them and improve on them for the next game."
Another regular presence around the team in recent season has been Kangaroos and Men's Indigenous All Stars skipper, Greg Inglis, who never hesitates to put his hand up to be involved with the women's rugby league teams.
"He was absolutely amazing. He had a bit of a chat to us and he's got us thinking in a different way," Harden said of the Souths captain's involvement.
"We realise we're out there representing our communities and our mob but we realise we've got to come together as a team and really put on a good show and actually enjoy ourselves. I think we get caught up too much sometimes in trying to win instead of stripping back and actually enjoying the game for what it is.
"[The week] is awesome, it brings the Indigenous community together and it shows how much everyone's invested in it.
"We're so grateful for the opportunity, getting to play in front of our family and friends in a big stadium is something we wouldn't usually get the opportunity to have, so to be able to do it representing our Indigenous heritage and under the banner of the Indigenous All Stars just makes it all that more special," she said.
Widders praised Harden's influence on the younger players, as well as each and every player's chance to in turn influence younger girls looking to get into sport.
"We're building the next generation of positive leaders and positive role models," Widders told NRL.com.
"The difference these girls are making to the young 10-12 year olds that are playing football and love playing rugby league and touch footy and sport is a thing where they get their positive outlook on life and they learn a lot of positive messages from sport, it's making a difference to those young girls. There's bigger things. There's a ripple effect from what they're doing."
Like Harden, Widders welcomed the chance for a more in-depth preparation this year.
"[In previous seasons] a lot of our players were new so we had to spend a lot of time going through that sort of process but now we've got them to a point where we can look at a video review of a game and add up really quickly what went wrong and now just putting into place going out and correcting those things in our training sessions," he said.
"I felt we had a couple of simple things we needed to focus on and they went and did it and now we're ready to go in the game in February."