Rep side finds balance between youth and experience
RUGBY LEAGUE: Blooding youth in the absence of an NRLW star is one of the main factors Gladstone Women's representative coach Andy Butler is looking forward to ahead of next month's 47th Battalion carnival.
Butler has named a squad of 22 for the carnival, to be played at the Sunshine Coast on May 3-5, but was presented with a selection headache given he can only take 19 players down south.
"I totally picked the team myself and have done for the past couple of years. I've been out to watch all the local teams play and selected the best out of the local talent going around," Butler said.
"We could only take 19 players away with us so I didn't want to name too many and have to tell them after one training session they aren't playing.
"A squad of 22 was a tricky one. There was a few discussions with coaches about how players were going at training but I've also been out watching some football over the last couple of weeks.
"One player, Zeah Lane, hasn't played this season but made the Queensland Country team last year and will be available. She was an automatic selection because she made that side last year."
However, there will be a notable omission with Australian Jillaroos star Chelsea Baker to sit out the carnival.
"I had to name her but I've known for a couple of weeks that she won't be available," Butler said.
"She's been asked to come in at the Central Crows level instead of having to play the 47th Battalion with the potential to get injured.
"Central Crows is the next level up and then she'll go from there to Queensland Country.
"I'm thinking about asking her to come down to training and help out where she can and I'm sure she'll want to do that anyway.
"She's pretty happy to spare her time and help the younger girls out."
One youngster to catch the eye of Butler is Tannum Seagals hooker Nakita Rhind.
"I'm really excited to see her. I watched her play on the weekend and I was really impressed. She was outstanding I thought," he said.
"She's only young and this year is the first I've seen her go around and she's very talented. She plays hooker for Tannum and will be playing that position for us.
"Some of the older girls have gone well - Martha Wharewera went really well on the weekend and Sharnee Werahiko was good.
"I'm more excited to see the younger players come through - I know what the older players offer - we've got some young talent there at the moment, which is really exciting."
Butler said it was too early to tell whether the Bundaberg/ Gladstone Intercity Competition had raised the playing standard given only two rounds of the competition had been completed.
"The footy I've watched you can definitely tell it's the start of the season and the quality will pick up as the season goes on," he said.
"It's too hard to say yet whether it's a better competition than Rocky last year."
Gladstone women's squad
Krystal Sulter, Ashleigh Docherty, Shakerra Ututaonga, Amy Pople, Vassa Hunter, Reggie Hickey, Nakita Rhind, Jasmine Jones, Prue Hair, Jamie-Lee Gehrmann, Martha Wharewera (Tannum); Jamie Gillett, Carly Hill, Kate Cunningham, Natasha Van Der Breggen, Rikarra Benjamin, Sharnee Werahiko, Jubilee Bennett, Zeah Lane (Wallabys); Rachel Post, Rebecca Piper-Mott (Calliope/Valleys).
Chelsea Baker (Wallabys) was selected but will not play.