Greater Northern Tigers women's rep side looks to Merriwa's Taylah Blackadder to spark Country Championships campaign

SOME positional changes to the starting line-up are expected to reinvigorate the Greater Northern Tigers women’s side when it tackles the Northern Rivers Titans at Bellevue Oval, Armidale, on Saturday.

Following the team’s 22-0 loss to North Coast in the CRL Country Championships opener, the Mick Schmiedel-coached outfit must hit the ground running in the second round clash to keep its campaign alive.

The squad boasts seven Group 21 reps – Gracie Gallen (Scone), Lucy Prudden (Murrurundi), Shae Pemberton (Muswellbrook), Jessyca Morgan (Merriwa), Gaynor Blackadder (Merriwa), Taylah Blackadder (Merriwa) and vice-captain Brooke Davis (Greta Branxton) – and all will play a major role this weekend.

“My first priority is the safety and wellbeing of the girls,” he said.

“I don’t want to be taking head knocks or niggly injuries into the game if we can help it.

“If it’s a bruised rib or something, we can get around it.

“But, when it is people’s heads, it’s a little bit different.

“Taneika [Landsborough] will stay at fullback, while Alyce [Walsh] will remain on the wing, pending her head assessment.

“Shae and Lucy will maintain their spots in the centres.

“However, we’re awaiting a decision on Lucy’s shoulder injury.

“Gracie will come into that other wing position at this stage.

“I thought she was fantastic [last week].”

Captain, and five-eighth, Amy Barraclough will be joined in the halves by Joan O’Leary, according to Schmiedel.

“Joan played [in that role] for the Group 4 side,” he said.

“We didn’t lack direction on the weekend, so I won’t put it that way.

“But, she’ll come into the halves and be the cranky boss.

“Amelia [Tunamena] and Jessyca will begin up front again, with Brooke O’Halloran and Lauren Clarke the two back-rowers.

“Vice-captain Brooke Davis stays at lock.”

The big surprise, however, is the switch in the hooking role between Robyn Broadbent and Blackadder, who’ll start off the bench.

“Taylah was our top tackler on the weekend,” Schmiedel said.

“So, Robbie is going to have to do a fair bit of work in that regard.

“I’ve got to try and utilise why Taylah made the side in the first place – and that was her speed out of the ruck.

“I believe with her starting [against North Coast], and getting through as much defence as she did, we probably lost her potency from dummy half.

“I think when she comes on, at about the 10-15-minute mark, she’ll be a bit more dangerous.

“Taylah is a little girl with a big heart.

“She’s not afraid to tackle and run but I think it may have hampered her running game by not being as fresh.

“It also gives another option with our kicking game with Robbie at dummy-half as well.

“The Titans have some bigger girls, so I’m expecting Taylah to do some damage around that ruck.”

The remaining Greater Northern rep sides – the under-16s, under-18s and men’s under-23s – face the Titans, too, in their respective divisions.

CRL Country Championships

Saturday, March 16 – at Bellevue Oval, Armidale

10am – Greater Northern Tigers v Northern Rivers Titans (Andrew Johns Cup)

11.20am – Greater Northern Tigers v Northern Rivers Titans (Laurie Daley Cup)

12.50pm – Greater Northern Tigers v Northern Rivers Titans (women’s)

2pm – Greater Northern Tigers v Northern Rivers Titans (men’s under-23s)