Port City Breakers celebrate as female participation increases

That’s a strike rate anyone would be proud of and that’s why the Port City Breakers are always celebrating.

This year, the North Coast Junior Rugby League club in the Port Macquarie area enjoyed their biggest ever player registration, which saw them field six teams in Group 3 JRL competitions – four League Tag teams and two Tackle teams.

Two of the teams finished Minor Premiers, while all six negotiated the Finals series to end up in their respective Grand Finals.

Junior Rugby League Group 3 chairman Warren Blissett says while three teams have missed the final hurdle, one has won the 2022 Shield and two more will stage their grand final this weekend.

“Out of six Women’s Grand Finals, Port City Breakers had six teams succeeding which was a significant milestone for the women’s game at Port Macquarie,” Blissett said.

“Despite the losses, the girls are all celebrating their arrival first, so it’s all been a smile.”

The six Port City Breakers teams are: Under 12s League Tag coached by Buddy King, Under 14s League Tag coached by Jade Arndell (Minor Premiers), Under 16s Sky League Tag coached by Matty Kunningham (Tier 2) , Under 16s Navy League Tag coached by Katie Kelly (Tier 1 – Minor Premiers), Under 12s Tackle coached by Bohdi and Josh Buckley, and Under 16s Tackle coached by Lauren Fearnley.

The Breakers’ success continues the success of Women’s Rugby League in the region, which includes 11 junior clubs from Gloucester, Old Bar, Forster, Wingham, Taree, Lake Cathie, Wauchope and Port Macquarie.

Combining League Tag and Tackle for this area, there are 456 registered players.

This figure has increased by around 50 players from 2021, but it is still impressive given the disruptions of COVID-19.

“It’s hard to determine what a normalized season number is, but we’ve seen significant growth over the past four years,” Blissett said.

“We’ve grown from around 20 girls to over 450 now. It’s so cool.

“The challenge is to stabilize this figure and look for new growth opportunities.”

Blissett felt there were three reasons that contributed to the rise of Rugby League.

“Bringing the 16 girls off the ground to add them to our younger age groups has helped,” he said.

“Then we have the popularity and profile of the NRLW – it has an impact.

“Then there is the growing contribution of the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs. They are more interested in the space for girls.

“The more they progress in their game in the senior women’s space, it will help us pave the way for them.”

Another initiative Blissett and other officials are working on are two Challenge programs named after NSW Origin players Holli Wheeler, originally from Old Bar, and current Harvey Norman Sky Blues coach Kylie Hilder, who lives in Forster .

Plans are underway for a Holli Wheeler 14s Challenge and a 16s Kylie Hilder Challenge in February-March, where interested players bring a friend and come to practice on Mondays and play on Wednesdays for four to five weeks.

“Every Wednesday we mix up the teams so you and your friend don a different outfit,” he said. “This should promote the game and strengthen our women’s registrations for the 2023 season.

“We have a huge league tag base for girls aged 12, 14 and 16, but that’s to bolster the tackling side of the game, which is growing.”

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