With back-to-back premiership wins already safely locked away in the trophy cabinet, the Burleigh Bears women’s team is on the hunt for a three-peat in 2017.
For years, Souths Magpies held a stranglehold over the women’s game in southeast Queensland, but that all changed in 2015 when the Bears claimed a 24-10 win on grand final day.
If there was any doubt that the pendulum had swung, the Bears removed it when they again defeated Souths in the big one last season.
Set the standard
Now, the Bears are without question the benchmark in women’s rugby league, with an undefeated record in 2017 to prove it.
“We’ve managed to create a strong culture around the club,” Bears coach Tahnee Norris said.
“The girls want to play for Burleigh and they love being around the club and that means that we keep a really close-knit group.
“We wanted to come into this season and do the three-peat. It was always on the cards after the grand final last year. Everyone wanted to come back and go three in a row.
“That is what we’re aiming for. Obviously, we’ve still got a long way to go in this season, but we’re going pretty well so far; nobody has beaten us yet.”
Burleigh’s good start has resulted in a strong contingent of Burleigh players earning representative selection.
Rona Peters, Zahara Temara and Tazmin Gray have all been named to start for Queensland against NSW on July 23, while Chelsea Lenarduzzi will come off the bench.
The Blues are the defending champions, breaking a 17-year drought at Cbus Super Stadium last July.
“All of them are massive additions to that Queensland side,” Norris said.
“For Tazzy and Rona it will be their second time around this year and I think they’re really looking forward to making amends for the loss Queensland suffered last year … Rona is probably one of the best defenders in the country at the moment.
“Chelsea and Zahara are both making their debut for Queensland. Zahara’s kicking game is phenomenal, she defends better than any other five-eighth in the game and when she takes it to the line she is such an attacking weapon.
“And Chelsea, coming off the bench, she’s going to be such an asset. She’s only young as well, but she has so much potential. She’s a big, powerful runner. She’ll be lapping up the experience, that’s for sure.”
Zahara’s Queensland debut caps a huge year where she also made her international debut for the Jillaroos.
After being a major factor in consecutive grand final wins, this year she is getting her chance to shine on the biggest stage and her coach says she is only going to get better.
“It was a massive thing for her (debuting for the Jillaroos),” Norris said.
‘She’s still got plenty to learn’
“She’s still a baby; she only turned 20 the other day. She’s still got plenty to learn, but has so much potential.
“I think she’s coming out of her shell. Five-eighth is such an important communication position; she has to lead the girls around the field. I think she’s growing into that position more and more and I think that is reflected in her selection for the Jillaroos and for Queensland.”
Burleigh v Wests
This week the defending champions return to Pizzey Park to take on the Wests Panthers. The Panthers sit in second spot on the ladder in the SEQ Women’s Division One competition and have the best defensive record in the league.
While Burleigh have been the frontrunners this year, Norris insists it is important for her side to stay focused and work even harder as every team is coming to try to claim their spot.
“They’ve got a couple of Jillaroos in that side. They’re always tough, and everyone is keen to knock us off at the moment,” she said.
“I guess we’re getting that tag about us as well, which I think is a good thing. The girls can’t rest on their laurels, they’ve got to keep fighting every week to make sure they win those games. The Panthers will be tough this week.
“There are a few really good sides developing in this division-one competition where you can see they are building and I think they will be bigger and better next year.
“But even by the back end of this season they will gel and will be playing even better footy, so we’ve got to make sure we’re prepared for that.”