Toowoomba women to tour UK
In few places is the exponential growth of women participating in rugby league more evident than it is in Toowoomba right now.
Women's teams in Toowoomba have gone from being self-sufficient and at times struggling for numbers, to now being aligned with Toowoomba Valleys and boasting almost 50 players with teams in Division 1 and Division 2 of the SEQ Women's competition.
They are also taking the historic step of venturing overseas, with a tour of the UK coming up in October.
The Toowoomba squad will take on two English sides and the Scottish national team.
Coach David Maccoll said his club's promotion into Division 1 will be the perfect way to prepare his players for what will be a unique experience at the end of the season.
"We're going over for two-and-a-half weeks and I'm hoping that by the time we go over there, our combinations will be set and we'll be ready to hit the ground running," he said.
"We've got three games lined up in England and I was hoping to get a mini-bus full of girls, but now we've got 48 players going on the tour.
"I think it's the first of any kind for a club side to take the women on tour like this to play against two English sides and the Scottish National side."
That end of season trip looms as an enticing carrot for all the women currently playing in Toowoomba, but the immediate focus is the SEQ season in front of them.
This is their first year moving into the top division and they are slowly starting to find their feet.
Round 5's big loss to Brothers Ipswich was a setback, but Maccoll is confident his side is making strides every week and learning how to compete at the top level.
"We have been building progressively, step-by-step, because we knew (Division 1) would be a big step up," he said.
"It's been a big learning curve for the girls adapting to the physicality of (Division 1) but the girls are getting better and better every week.
"The girls are going to learn a lot this year and I really hope they build upon it for next year. We've laid the foundation this year, now as a club and as a team we've got to start building upon that foundation."
This week they travel to Davies Park to take on Souths Magpies. When these sides met in Round 1, the Magpies secured a four-point win at the death.
This time, Maccoll said that while his side is desperate for a win, the Magpies would also be feeling the pressure to snap a four-game losing streak of their own.
"They'd be more desperate for a win than us," Maccoll said. "They've only got the one win from when they beat us on the bell in Round 1.
"Our girls; I think they realise they should have won that game. We're biting at the bit. We want to get that first win on the board and I think we can do it this week."
Kick-off between Toowoomba and Souths is at Davies Park this Sunday at 4.30pm.
Elsewhere, the West Brisbane Panthers host Brothers Ipswich in a top-of-the-table battle at Kev McKell Oval tomorrow (Saturday) afternoon. The game will be livestreamed on BRLTV from 3pm.
Also tomorrow (Saturday), the Burleigh Bears will travel to Langlands Park, Suzuki Stadium to take on Easts Tigers from 5.30pm.
Photo: Toowoomba v Burleigh (IMAGE: Toowoomba Women's Rugby League News Facebook)