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Ali Brigginshaw. Photo: Zain Mohammed/QRL

The Western Clydesdales are here to make history.

After last year celebrating their return to the Hostplus Cup, the Toowoomba-based club will this year enter the BMD Premiership for the first time – alongside the Sunshine Coast Falcons – and are doing so in style.

The squad is impressive, boasting names that are now synonymous with women’s rugby league - Brigginshaw, Apps, Hancock, Ciesiolka, Davis.

They have some of the most exciting up-and-comers in the game, including recent NRLW debutants in forwards Tara Reinke and Jessikah Reeves.

And plenty of young guns or new faces but faces that hold promise for the future – watch this space when it comes to Georgia Sim, Kayla Jackson or Zoe Cook.

Whether they finish first or last, there is no doubting that the Clydesdales are here to make an impact in 2024.

For Harvey Norman Queensland Maroons captain Ali Brigginshaw, the decision to move from Norths Devils to the Clydesdales this year came off the back of a promise to teammate Shenae Ciesiolka, an Oakey Bears junior and Toowoomba local.

Ciesiolka had spent her BMD Premiership career travelling into Brisbane to play and now wanted Ipswich-based Brigginshaw to return the favour.

Ali Brigginshaw. Photo: Zain Mohammed/QRL
Ali Brigginshaw. Photo: Zain Mohammed/QRL

“It was just a discussion between Shen and I,” Brigginshaw said.

“She always has to make the trek to Brissie and said it was my turn to come up and do the drive.

“From the first minute I got there, I’ve just felt nothing but love from community, teammates, coaching staff.

“It has a very nice feel to it and I think it’s really excited me to start from scratch.

“Some girls are playing just their second and third games of rugby league and it can be refreshing to help people. I’ve got a lot of knowledge that I can pass on and I get to do something with it now.

“They’ve had a lot of Toowoomba girls come, local girls come and train and be part of the team and see who can make the team from Toowoomba.

“That will only get stronger and stronger. Then the people we’ve brought in, the experience they’ll bring to the town, the team, it’s a really special way to be the inaugural team.”

Brigginshaw – who listed Reinke as well as Jackson and Cook as players to keep an eye on – said she is not only excited to pass on her knowledge, but to see what her Australian co-captain Kezie Apps can also bring to the table, especially with her own country background.

The Bega product signed onto the Clydesdales after the New South Wales women’s competition was moved to the back end of the season to line up with the NRLW.

At first Apps did not give much thought to trying to relocate to Queensland due to the juggle of responsibilities but then her manager floated the idea of joining the Clydesdales.

Apps in action for the Clydesdales. Photo: Benny Hassum/Western Clydesdales
Apps in action for the Clydesdales. Photo: Benny Hassum/Western Clydesdales

“My manager’s chatted to me and I was like, ‘I’d love to play up there’,” Apps said.

“It’s just a bit of luck. I’m so excited to be able to play for the Clydesdales. I’m a country girl myself and being able to give back to the Queensland country is exciting.

“It’s really special. I understand the travel and the commitment it takes for them, all the hours they have to drive for training or a game.

“I’m proof that if you do put the hard work in and commit, you can achieve whatever you set your mind to. It’s about being a role model.

“Some of them are so young, which is exciting, to see how skillful they are for their age. It’s nice to be able to have that common ground with them and around the hardship it is not being in the city… you have to work extra harder.”

Apps herself will put in a lot of travel to play with the Clydesdales this year.

She will remain in Sydney due to work and fly into Queensland every Friday for captain’s run, before playing either on the Saturday or Sunday.

And while the likes of Brigginshaw and Apps joining the team has created plenty of hype and excitement in rugby league circles, the Clydesdales know it will take some time to get the balance right between their veterans and their rookies.

“You need to strive high and want to win and want to win the premiership,” Apps said.

“For us, with so many new faces, it’s about enjoying the good times or learning from the mistakes or errors and next time they’ll be more experienced, which is exciting for the new players and the club as well.

“We still need to aim high and want to win every game but every game they are going to get better and the more game awareness they have, who knows what will come off the back of it.”

For Brigginshaw, the desire to win this year is a little more personal.

At the age of 34, the playmaker has achieved so much within the game and the questions are starting to circulate as to when she’ll hang up the boots.

Brigginshaw said she has her eye on a potential 2026 World Cup and absolutely not playing beyond that. But, whether retirement comes next year or after one last World Cup, all she wants for now is to prove the doubters wrong.

“I want to win everything. I don’t like losing,” Brigginshaw said of 2024.

“Everyone’s answer should be to win BMD, win Origin, win NRLW.

“I’m always facing challenges now the older I get. It’s an age thing. Age is constantly brought into the conversation when it’s Ali Brigginshaw.

“I’m still playing, I’m injury-free, I’m enjoying my footy, I have a supportive family and Ali Brigginshaw is still the same person. I still try my arse off every time I play.

“It’s given me more motivation to win.

“I really feel like this group can just compete with every team we play against. I say this to them all the time - we’re tough and we’re from the country and that means we don’t give up.

“Our trials have been quite close and we never gave up. We’re not going to be a walkover team even though it’s full of young faces.

“Us older players, we have intentions to help set this club up for the future of Toowoomba and to pass on our experience, which I think is pretty cool.”

Western Clydesdales 2024 squad list

Therese Aiton (Norths Devils), Kezie Apps (Wests Tigers), Ali Brigginshaw (Norths Devils/Brisbane Broncos), Rease Casey (Wynnum Manly Seagulls), Shenae Ciesiolka (Norths Devils/Brisbane Broncos), Katelyn Collie (Highfields Eagles), Zoe Cook (Mackay Cutters), Nikki Cox (Gatton Hawks), Keeley Davis (Sydney Roosters), Kimberley Dore (Gatton Hawks), Kimberly Duncan (Sawtell Panthers), Paige Edwards (Newtown Lions), Taylor Fenton (Burleigh Bears), Bridie Gray (Gatton Hawks), Steph Hancock (Gold Coast Titans), Sarah Hoger (Gatton Hawks), Kayla Jackson (Roma), Chloe Johnston (Dalby), Tess Littleton (Gatton Hawks), Ashlee Makim (Oakey Bears), Casey Manzelmann (Mackay Cutters), Grace McLauchlan (Newtown Lions), Montana Mook (Northern Pride Harvey Norman Under 19), Caitlin Nolan (Gatton Hawks), Natalia Parsons (Newtown Lions), Nirada Phonsaya (Wynnum Manly Seagulls), Jessikah Reeves (North Queensland Cowboys), Tara Reinke (Canberra Raiders/Gatton Hawks), Georgia Sim (rugby union), Leianne Tufuga (Wests Tigers), Natalia Webb (Gatton Hawks), Ellie Winzar (Gatton Hawks), Mackenzie Zeller (Highfields Eagles)

Acknowledgement of Country

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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