Hunter Valley Group 21 coach Phoebe Desmond praises players after CRL Women’s Northern Selection Trials

THE big occasion might have hampered their performance somewhat but Hunter Valley Group 21 coach Phoebe Desmond could not fault her team’s fighting spirit at Muswellbrook on Saturday.

The local outfit – consisting of representatives from Muswellbrook, Singleton, Merriwa, Aberdeen and Murrurundi, tackled the inaugural CRL Women’s Northern Selection Trials, along with Central Coast-Newcastle, Hastings, Group 4, Group 19 and Western.

And, for the record, Group 21 suffered a 32-4 loss to Central Coast-Newcastle, however hit back with an 8-all draw with Western in the afternoon fixture.

“I wasn’t disappointed by the effort,” Desmond said.

“But, I truly think nerves got the better of the girls in the opening game.

“Three quick mistakes gave Central Coast-Newcastle a bit of a leg up.

“People forget those women take the field week-in, week-out, while that was the first time we’d played [a match] together.

“We didn’t take our opportunities and, even though we only trailed 12-4 at the break, too many errors in the second half proved costly.

“In saying that, they never gave up at any stage.”

Desmond was more happy to talk about the encounter with Western.

“They went back to the basic structure – and played phenomenal,” she said.

“I might be biased; it was certainly the game of the day.

“There was good footy from both sides, everyone had a dig.

“The two 20-minute halves (instead of 25) helped with the heat, too.”

With a gifted talent pool at her disposal in the area, Desmond said there were many positives from the experience.

“I was very happy with the forward pack in general,” she explained.

“They put the other sides on the back foot.

“Merriwa’s Jessyca Morgan was my pick of the day, while fellow Magpie Maddi Blackadder impressed me in the second match.

“Singleton’s Brooke Carter held her own as well.”

In the other showdowns, Group 4 accounted for Hastings and Group 19, while Central Coast-Newcastle also overpowered Western.

Hastings retaliated with a victory at the expense of Group 19.  

The Northern squad, which will tackle Southern on Saturday, April 14, is expected to be named next month.