CENTRAL West may not have been able to clinch the NSW Country Rugby Union Women’s Championship title on Saturday, but Bathurst Bulldog Marita Shoulders still finished with a major honour.
The talented number 8 was named player of the tournament after a big day at Campbelltown, one which saw Central West finish in third place.
Shoulders was surprised to be given the award – saying “I don’t know how that happened” – but the experience the former Sydney University and Penrith Emus player brought to the side clearly had value.
“There were really a lot of good players out there and I really think I didn’t think I was doing that much. I found myself doing a lot of stand back and directing,” she said.
In the 15-a-side round-robin format tournament, the Blue Bullettes drew 10-all with Mid North Coast, fell 22-10 to eventual champions Illawarra and was locked at 19-all with Hunter at full-time.
Shoulders felt the Blue Bullettes improved as the tournament went on and praised the efforts of fellow forwards and Bulldogs Mandy Scott, Edwina Ulberg, Melissa Waterford and Teagan Miller. Another Bathurst talent in Alyza Doulis played in the centres.
“By the third game, we’d finally clicked. If only there was a finals series I think we could have come good. We had two draws, so one more point and we would’ve come second,” she said.
“Part of it was we are not used to 15-a-side, we are used to 10s and 7s. We are used to going in to get to ball, we’re not structured, stand back, let them have it. Obviously there was a lot of yelling from me, I think half of them had never played 15-a-side.
“But considering we had a couple of 17-year-olds and a couple of 40-year-olds plus who had never played – well, one was 38 and she’d never played rep footy – I think we did really good.
“Mandy was halfback for most of the games and Teagan Miller … she stepped into halfback for the last game and did an awesome job. I think that’s what led to us getting the draw against Hunter.
“Mel Waterford is an absolute workhorse, she never stops and didn’t get off the field the whole day and E [Ulberg], she played awesome at hooker, her line-out throwing was amazing. I think she got the coaches’ award because she just did everything they asked her to do.”
Shoulders, who thanked Central West officials for their support of the women’s representative team, will now return to club duties with the Bulldogs.
The defending premiers are undefeated after four rounds of the Ferguson Cup – a competition Shoulders feels will help boost the strength of women’s rugby in the Central West.
“I think it’s [standard] definitely improving. The structure of the new comp is leading to better football each week – there are a lot of different faces and a lot more game time,” she said.
“Before we were playing 7s and occasionally 10s with 20 minute games and then trying to step up to representative football playing 15-a-side and 20-minute halves and we just didn’t have it.
“Now we are doing four 10-minute quarters, the girls are getting more time on the field and usually it’s more 10s, so we are getting more structure.”