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Ash Werner. Photo: Jason O'Brien/QRL

Ash Werner may be a “rookie” when it comes to rugby league.

But as a veteran athlete, the newly-signed Burleigh Bears winger knows a thing or two about what makes a good sporting team.

With a long background in a variety of sports – competing in swimming, athletics, netball, touch football and rugby sevens as she grew up – Werner almost became an Olympian thanks to the seven years she spent in the sport bobsleigh.

However, in 2022, after she had already qualified for the Winter Olympics in Beijing, her dreams were cut short by a poorly-timed bout of Covid-19.

Needing a break, Werner last year took up rugby league, first playing with the Wests Tigers in the New South Wales premiership before joining the Brisbane Broncos for the 2023 NRLW season.

Now this season – with the NSW competition moving to later in the year – Werner is ready for her first stint in the BMD Premiership and has found herself right at home at Burleigh.

And club she knows is made up of good teams.

Ash Werner. Photo: Jason O'Brien/QRL
Ash Werner. Photo: Jason O'Brien/QRL

“Being very new to the game, I wanted to continue my progress and experience and Burleigh being one of the feeder clubs for the Broncos, it seemed like a really good opportunity,” Werner said.

“And who doesn’t want a summer on the Gold Coast, really?

“Burleigh is awesome. Everyone is so friendly and everyone really wants to learn. I can flick a message to pretty much anyone in the group and say, ‘hey I’m going to training early to do extras, can anyone help me?’

“And five people will rock up early to help.

“Everyone is a genuine contender for a spot on the field but everyone wants everyone else to be the best they can be... Everyone is really invested in helping everyone else grow.

“Everyone is friendly, talented, hard-working and so personable. It’s really hard when you’re moving away from home but everyone has been so friendly and checking in.”

Werner, who still calls Sydney home but is living on the Gold Coast temporarily, said she has been very happy in general living in Queensland.

First she was blown away by the hospitality and unity at the Broncos. And now she sees the same at the Bears.

Burleigh last year made BMD Premiership history when they won a record-breaking seventh women’s title and Werner said it’s not hard to see why the club as a whole has enjoyed so much success.

“(Their success) is not something they talk about a lot but you can sense that in their culture,” Werner said.

“They’re not the team that comes out and says, ‘we’ve won it and this us how we’re going to win it again.’

“But through their core values and the people here, they show it through their actions.

“You can see it when you rock up to training… everything is really professional and everyone does it at such a high intensity and people will ask questions if they don’t know something.

“Obviously every team wants to win the premiership. That’s just natural - everyone is a competitor and everyone wants that.

“But in my opinion, this is such an amazing club because they’ve built a really good foundation and a culture where everyone feels valued and feels they have a place in the team… therefore everyone continues wanting to succeed.

“To me, that’s what’s really important about a team. You can want to win a premiership all you want, but you have to put the steps in place to get there.

“By focusing on the people the way they do, that’s what creates a high-performing team. That’s what I take away from my time at Burleigh so far.”

Werner in action for the Broncos. Photo: NRL Imagery
Werner in action for the Broncos. Photo: NRL Imagery

Outside of the addition of Werner, the Bears are also set to welcome back Teaghan Hartigan in 2024 while young forward Lavinia Kitai joins the club from Souths Logan.

For season 2024, Werner’s personal goals are to keep improving and keep developing her knowledge of the game.

And off the field, she also wants to continue contributing to the awareness of the female game, particularly for the next generation.

The 31-year-old said she sees her future in rugby league and that’s not just about becoming a better player herself, but inspiring the players coming through the ranks below.

“I love rugby league and I would love to see this be my future,” Werner said.

“I enjoy growing and learning and I’ve found such an amazing atmosphere here and an incredible support network and people that genuinely want to see me succeed.

"I think it’s really rare to see that in sport sometimes but I’ve really loved everyone I’ve had the opportunity to meet.

“My on-field goals this year are being the best player I can be but I’ve also found so much joy in doing the off-field work with the community.

“When I was little, I said I wanted to be an athlete from the age of four. Everyone told me it wasn’t a viable career choice for a little girl.

“Now I get to be there at clinics with the Broncos and I get to tell four-year-old girls they can be a footy player when they grow up. It’s a pretty cool experience.

“I get to tell girls the only limitations they have are the ones they put on themselves.

“I even have schoolboys coming up and asking for my autograph. I never would have thought of that when I was younger.

“Getting to be able to see these kids who don’t see boys sport and girls sport, they just see sport and athletes, that’s going to such a huge shift in our culture.”

Burleigh Bears 2024 gains and losses


Saphire Abraham (New Zealand), Mia Barber (Central Coast), Charlotte Barwick (Newcastle Knights), Teaghan Hartigan (Currumbin Eagles), Lavinia Kitai (Souths Logan Magpies), Montana Clifford (Currumbin Eagles), Ash Werner (Brisbane Broncos), Ivana Lolesio (rugby sevens)


Lily Kolc (Tweed Seagulls), Ashleigh Quinlan (Tweed Seagulls), Felice Quinlan (Tweed Seagulls), Taylor Fenton (Western Clydesdales)

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