Rabbitohs & Sea Eagles – 2023 Women’s Premiership Season Preview

BY PETER ROWE

The 2023 NRLWA Women’s Premiership kicks off this weekend – we talk to the club coaches about their hopes for the new season

Ellenbrook Rabbitohs

The Rabbitohs swept all before them last season, winning nine of their 12 games on their way to a premiership.

And 2023 its shaping up in similar style – with much of that championship side still around – but with a new coach, Dale Stringer.

Former Fremantle coach Stringer is back after a couple of years as a spectator and is excited about what his new team can offer.

“ There’s lots of experience in the squad, Stringer said. :A few new faces, but it’s pretty much the same team.”

Stringer knows every game will be a final as other teams strive to knock them off.

“I know we’re the team to beat,” he said. “ But the girls are mature enough and experienced to handle that. Every year is a challenge and as other teams close in on our high standards, each game will be tougher.”

Mahinarangi Clair will lead the Bunnies, as she did last year, but Stringer is hoping a few others will step up as well.

“We’ve some potentially very good leaders in the squad,” he said.

“We know it will be harder to follow what we achieved last season, but that in itself a great challenge to have.

“For us it’s about those one-percenters, getting the basics right., limiting drop ball and seeing out your sets.”

The challengers will be hoping to catch them out and Stringer rates Fremantle as a threat, as well as Rockingham and Joondalup.

“All three are quality asides on their day, so we will always be ready,” he said.

The Rabbits will open against Joondalup, a game Stringer believes will be a cracker.

“We will have to watch out for Aneeka (Stephens) plus a couple of other threats, so it won’t be an easy start to the season.

“But, hey, it’s just great to be back on the footy field. We can’t wait.”

North Beach Sea Eagles

2023 is all about youth for North Beach Sea Eagles and coach Trudy Whaanga.

A successful regular 2022 season saw the Sea Eagles finish second on the ladder, with eight wins and a draw from their 12 games, before they were beaten by Joondalup in the finals.

But with many players moving on, the club has decided to concentrate on a youth policy for the new season, aimed at giving the club stability for seasons to come.

“Apart from two players, everyone else is under 25,” Whaanga said.

“It’s a much slimmer squad than last year and we started our preseason late, so we’re a little behind other clubs.

“We trained with the men last year, but this year that didn’t happen.”

Whaanga discovered late last season she was pregnant. It wasn’t planned, she said, and last month the family welcomed a baby girl. “After three boys it was really nice to have a daughter.”

The club has recruited several younger players, including attracting Keira McCaskell back from union in a move to build a younger team base that will hopefully give them a longterm future.

“Keira played for Western Force but is back with us and there is a group of younger girls who have grown up together in the game – that’s where we see our future,” Whaanga said.

Cheyenne Campbell and Gabrielle Mouat have also joined from Willagee. “They’ve had three sessions with us and they’re loving it,” coach Whaanga said.

Confidence is the key for the new season at Beach, as Whaanga explained she wanted her new and younger squad to grow into their roles.

“At 6, 7 and 9 we’ve got younger players and it would be great to see them take those roles and  mature across the season,” she said.

“It will definitely be a learning season for us, but I have lot of confidence in their ability.”

Whaanga knows this season will a step up from last as teams have improved.

“Ellenbrook are the benchmark but Rockingham have numbers and might be the dark horse team.”

“We might be a bit behind on preseason preparation but we are looking forward to a new season – as I know all the other clubs are.”