When Ibonee Ison came off Scully Park after leading Group 4 in an historic Greater Northern Tigers Championships, she was “a little disappointed” the side had lost both their matches.
And while that is undoubtedly true (Group 4 coach Adelaide Monika had tried to temper the rookie side’s expectation following a first-up 16-0 loss to Group 21), there was nothing about Ison’s posture or subsequent words that suggested anything other than pride in what her and her teammates had achieved.
It was only late last year that most of them made their tackle debuts, at the Group 4 women’s nines competition at Ken Chillingworth Oval.
Saturday marked the first time women’s tackle had been included in the championships – meaning the girls who took part in the tournament are pioneers for the sport in this region.
The loss to Group 21, the tournament champions, was followed by a 22-0 loss to Group 19 – a game in which they were down 18-0 at the break and lifted substantially in the second half.
Four Group 4 players were named in a 20-member Greater Northern Tigers squad, including Boggabri’s Lauren Clarke, as well as Zoe Darlington (Barraba) and Joan O’Leary and Toni Skuthorpe (South West Robins). The side plays North Coast, at Coffs Harbour on March 9, in a Country Championships opener.
Following the Group 19 clash, Ison said: “We’re a little disappointed but I think we played really well.
“It’s our first time playing together, so we went well. And yeah, happy with our efforts today.
“A lot of us haven’t played rugby league before, so we did really well and put a big effort in … I think there’s a really big learning curve here and we’ll be able to go further next time.”
Against Group 21, Group 4 were under pressure almost from the kick-off. The side did defend well, though, and only trailed 12-nil at halftime.
“We did have a tough start,” coach Monika said. “We did defend well, though – I really enjoyed that.”
There were some big hits from Group 4, with Chantelle Lee, Jodi Howarth, Ison and Darlington impressing in that department.
The second half started better for Group 4, with a few breaks from Darlington and Maria Monika sparking the side. However, ball-control issues was a limiting factor.
“We couldn’t hold the ball,” Monika said, adding: “They have got to be ready to receive the ball. And we will be trying to get the ball wide in our second game. That’s where our speed is out wide.”
In their second match, Group 4 ran into a hot Group 19 side who used the ball well in the first half.