3 April 2024

NRLW players show Cooktown league juniors skills ropes

| Chisa Hasegawa
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Skills and drills session group photo

Junior rugby league players in Cooktown have had an inspiring start to their 2024 season following a visit from NRWL players for a skills session last week. Photo: Jacynta Hunt.

Future rugby league stars in Cooktown have had an exciting and inspiring start to their season after a visit from the professionals last week.

A contingent of players and training staff from the North Queensland Cowboys and Northern Pride, including NRLW stars Tahlulah Tillett and Krystal Blackwell, ran a skills and drills session at Endeavour Christian College on 26 March, which was followed by a meet and greet with Cooktown’s budding rugby league talent.

Cooktown Crocs Junior Rugby League Club secretary Jacynta Hunt said the event had been especially valuable for the town’s female rugby league players, as it demonstrated there was a professional pathway available to them on the football field.

“We have an OK number of girls in our club, but when they get older, the ratio of boys to girls increases,” she said.

“I brainstormed with the committee and some of our coaches on what we can do as a club to incentivise girls who play football, and we came back with what the girls need is not special equipment, they don’t need anything different to the boys, but what they do need is role models.

“Unless they see that there’s a pathway there for them, it becomes something that they just don’t get supported in early enough to keep the passion alive.”

Ms Hunt said in the club’s younger age groups, the mix of female to male players could be up to 50 per cent.

“As they get older, body image kicks in, they’re not sure about their role models or whether they should play footy, and if being a sporting woman is cool,” Ms Hunt said.

“I think in having those role models, it helps them to see that these are beautiful, hard-working women who have chosen to make careers out of football.

“Tilly [Tillett] was amazing when she spoke to them, she said she was the only girl in an all-boys team.

“We’re seeing that shift now where there are more girls playing football, and they can start to believe that it’s as much for them as it is for the boys.”

Ms Hunt said although the session was aimed at encouraging girls to join and stay in the sport, it was equally important for the boys to be exposed to female role models.

“We did open it deliberately to boys as well as girls, because we felt it was equally beneficial for the boys to see these women as amazing and powerful, because that’s how we’re going to change that perspective and that culture,” she said.

“I would say [the boys] already put them on a pedestal, because you’ll often hear [them] going ‘she’s really tough’ or ‘wow, she plays really awesome’, so it definitely wasn’t born from a deficit.

“All the kids in rural towns need role models to know that they are seen and there’s a pathway there, regardless of their gender or where they come from.”

She said the session raised the enthusiasm of the players going into a new season and also attracted newcomers to the sport.

“They were asking lots of questions and they got really involved with all of the different skills and drills from the Cowboys and Northern Pride,” Ms Hunt said.

“It was great to have conversations with the people who hadn’t yet signed up; I had a lot of people asking me ‘when does training start, are the teams full yet, can we still sign on?'”

The Crocs will hold their first official training session of the season on 16 April.

Skills and drills session

The 26 March skills clinic allowed junior rugby league players in Cooktown to get up close and personal with NRLW players on and off the paddock. Photo: Jacynta Hunt.

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