The young female players at the State Junior Carnival at Toowoomba this month were treated to some spectacular women’s league and a visit from some female player royalty.
The Toowoomba Fillies hosted the Number 1 team in the SEQ competition, Souths Brisbane, on Saturday, July 2, and gave the ladies a hard-fought battle.
While the Souths team were down a few elite players, they did run on the formidable Queensland and Australian Jillaroos front-row duo Steph Hancock and Heather Ballinger. Five-eighth Ali Brigginshaw also headlined the talented team.
The Toowoomba ladies never took a backward step and headed into the half-time break in front 10-8. When play resumed so did the hard hits and battle for the upper hand until about 15 minutes from full-time the class, power and speed of Souths and the huge defensive load on the Fillies enabled Souths to pull ahead for a 30-10 victory.
Veteran Millie Edwards ripped into the Souths forwards and was ably supported by lock Molly O’Connell and second-rowers Lauren Cockburn and Amanda Gibson. The combination of returning halfback Emily Young and five-eighth Ashleigh Sowter consistently threatened the Souths defence and gave centres Sam Leisha and Taylor Stevens (two tries) great attacking options.
With a bye next week, the Fillies are primed to make a push for a top-five position and entry into the A-Division finals.
Souths fullback Courtney Robinson wreaked havoc out wide in the second-half with Heather Ballinger doing a mountain of work in attack and defence.
The QRL Central Division took the opportunity to invite Steph Hancock and Heather Ballinger to stay on Saturday night and share their rugby league experiences with the best Under-14 and Under-16 girls in the state.
Both willingly obliged and joined Nat Dwyer, Bec Jones and Jenni-Sue Hoepper on a panel where they were interviewed by current Fillies captain and former Queensland and Australian representative Milly Edwards.
The ladies shared their views on respecting the badge, the best players they have played against, how and when they started playing rugby league, other sporting achievements and the dedication and discipline required to reach the elite level.
The young players from the Central Crows, South East Queensland and Northern Division all listened intently and hopefully came away with renewed passion for the game. Many took the opportunity to have photos taken with their idols.
On Sunday, the final day of the state carnival, Steph Hancock attended and presented the Player of the Match awards to the Under-14 and Under-16 girls and also the Under-16 Player of the Championships – the Stephanie Hancock Award.
As the Under-14 age group was newly introduced to the state junior championships this year, the trophies were struck in honour of Heather Ballinger (Girls State Champions) and Veronica White (Player of the Championships).