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Gatton Hawks' 2023 win sweeter than the rest

Gatton may have their third consecutive Toowoomba A grade women's premiership but the team's leaders say this campaign was undoubtedly the toughest.

Caitlin Nolan was just happy to be on the field again after missing the 2022 charge due to a serious leg injury playing rugby sevens.

But she was never detached from the team, who helped lift her up in the tough times, and she repaid the faith with a stellar performance at lock.

"I've been a part of this team since the start, but unfortunately I was injured last season, so I missed out on most of the season and to come back from a major injury, it's pretty good," Nolan said.

"I pretty well snapped my ankle and leg in half. It was pretty frightening to come back from, but once I got past that initial contact, then I was fine after that.

"I got a good physio and without them, I wouldn't be where I am today. It was a huge rehab.

"I'm so grateful for the support of all these girls.

"It was pretty s--- that I had to sit on the sideline. But as soon as I could start running, I got involved and was the league safe throughout last season just to keep that relationship with all the girls."

Gatton captain Kim Dore makes inroads. Photo: Jacob Grams/QRL
Gatton captain Kim Dore makes inroads. Photo: Jacob Grams/QRL

Nolan said it was that trademark team spirit that helped Gatton hold on 32-16 after getting out to a big lead in the grand final against Newtown Lions on Saturday.

"We knew that if we played all together as a team that we would get what we wanted done today, and I think that's what we did," she said.

"We just went out there all together, there was no individual."

The Hawks were forced to do a mountain of defence early as Newtown came out strong, although among that they made the most of their chances, with Nat Webb running 60m to score the opener for Gatton in the third minute.

Newtown finally got over in the 19th minute through Niquita Peters, before Caitlin's sister Ashlea Nolan barged over in the 25th minute to turn the momentum.

Tashauna Willis-Duncan scored just before half-time to help Gatton to a 18-4 lead at the break, and they kept it going in the second with tries to Cydnee Young and another to Nolan within 10 minutes of the resumption to make it 26-4.

The Lions narrowed the deficit to 10 with seven minutes to go, before player of the match Sarah Hoger sealed the result with a try in the 56th minute.

Gatton captain Kim Dore said it was a "fabulous" feeling after a whirlwind season.

Dore accepts the trophy after the grand final.
Dore accepts the trophy after the grand final.

"It was amazing. I think this season was the hardest over the last three years," she said.

"It's been a roller coaster and to get here and actually get the win this afternoon.

"You get to enjoy getting to bond with some of these girls and then, for various circumstances, they've gone off on a different path.

"We've just had to readjust and readjust and had lots of injuries as well, so it's just, it's just been a lot of pivoting through the season and it's been a tough one."

Dore hailed Caitlin Nolan and prop Bride Gray as some of the unsung heroes with their work rate each week keeping the team ticking.

Main image: Caitlin Nolan enjoys the spoils of victory with the team. Photo: Jacob Grams/QRL

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Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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