Rustlers women gearing up to defend 47th Battalion title
RUGBY LEAGUE: The Rockhampton Rustlers have retained about 80 per cent of the line-up that won the 47th Battalion women's title last year.
Coach Amanda Ohl and the players are keenly aware that as defending champions, they will have a big target on their back at this year's carnival in Toowoomba on May 5 and 6.
Coach Amanda Ohl said she was "quietly confident but quietly concerned” given the team had not enjoyed the smoothest preparation this year.
"This time last year we'd had five or six training runs but we've had some distractions this year,” she said.
"We've still got two weeks to get everything settled and right and ready to go.”
The Rustlers have lost some experienced campaigners including Samartha Leisha, who was seriously injured in a club game a fortnight ago, and Kaitlyn Moss, who is recovering from knee surgery.
Ohl said Leisha, who suffered a fractured vertebrae playing for Emu Park on April 6, was a huge loss.
There was, however, some good news for the Queensland and Indigenous All Stars player who has been released from hospital.
The rugby league community has rallied around Leisha, a mother of five.
"The support she has been receiving from not only the Rocky region but teammates around Australia has been wonderful,” Ohl said.
"Any team she's been involved in has reached out to her and is wanting to help, emotionally and financially.”
Ohl said she still had some incredibly talented players, and what the team lacked in experience they would make up for with youth and enthusiasm.
She would be looking to the likes of Sarah Field, Tashina Ketchup and Mackenzie Reid to take on more of a leadership role.
Ohl is also excited about having halfback Tamika Upton in the team for the first time.
"She will be massive for us,” she said.
"For three years I've been asking her to play rep footy but she's had other commitments. This year she's committed to rugby league and is ready to have a really good crack at it.
"The sky's the limit for Tamika. She's a born match winner, a natural competitor and she's 100 per cent rugby league talent.”
Ohl expects the strongest competition to come from last year's grand finalists, the Sunshine Coast Falcons, and Gladstone who the Rustlers meet first-up at the carnival.
"I was hoping we would meet Gladstone in the final but instead we're playing them in our first game. That means one of us will knock the other out,” she said.
"That game will be a real test. If we can get through that confidently it will put us in good stead for the rest of the carnival.”
- Aleethia Row Row, Chloe Fattore, Kira Boland, Emmaley McMurdy, Gemma Brennan, Mackenzie Reid, Bree Spreadborough, Meg Neven, Justine Willie, Tamika Upton, Sharni Upton, Chanette Dodd, Shae Minto, Rhiannon Revell-Blair, Tashina Ketchup, Jacinda Harrison, Sarah Field, Lakiila Gudgeon, Tyler Phillips, Mikalya Roe