After three straight rounds without a win, or even a try, the Nelson Bay Sharks have roared to life in the NRL Blues Tag, defeating Kurri Kurri 22-nil in the opening match of the league’s Mothers’ Day gala celebration at the Tomaree Sports Complex.
Emma Cram made history for the Sharks as she scored the club’s first top-level try. Nelson Bay’s fullback cut open the Bulldogs’ defensive line as she streaked away, clearing half the field to put the Sharks into the lead for the first time in 2019.
Raegan Mcilwain doubled Nelson Bay’s advantage soon after, before Haley Dews slotted home the first conversion for the team to give them a 10-0 lead heading into the sheds at half time at Tomaree.
There was more history to be made, however. While the Bulldogs couldn’t find their way over the line against the Sharks, Cram had got a taste for the four-pointers. She crossed twice more to claim the first ever hat-trick for the northern club, and two more goals from Dews sealed the 22-point win on Sunday morning.
Blaine O’Flaherty, who guided Stroud through the Hunter grade competition in 2018 with just two losses to their name, knew he was facing a challenge to get the mentality of the side back on track after failing to chalk a win in the first three rounds of the competition.
After “throwing the negative vibes out, and bringing the positives vibes in,” however, Nelson Bay were right back on track, the Sharks boss said, and it paid off in spades when they came up against Kurri on Sunday morning.
“We had a lot of confidence that even after the first few weeks things were going to go our way, because there were availability problems, and a few girls had never played league tag before, so we were overcoming that,” O’Flaherty said.
“The relief is there for us now, it takes the pressure off everyone knowing that as a new team we’re not going to go through a whole season missing the chance to win, or even get tries or points, so it’s great for our mentality. It shows how good these girls can be that after not scoring even one point, they can still come out and get this win.”
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Now the challenge, O’Flaherty said, was to “push on” with the lessons that the girls had been taking under their wings – or ‘fins’ – every single week.
“Now that we’ve got the structure in place, and they’re taking what I’m teaching into the games, I think the team will definitely have a lot more confidence in their own play,” he said.
“They know now they can get over that try line, and it can happen late in the game instead of in the first few minutes. If the team keeps going like this and improving in bursts every single game, I am absolutely sure we can put a stamp on this competition.”
Also at Tomaree on Mothers’ Day, Central stayed first with a 23-nil win against Macquarie. They sit level with Wests, after the Rosellas recorded the narrowest of margins against Lakes – just a single penalty goal separated the two sides in the end.
Finally, Maitland scored a 14-nil win over Cessnock to keep the Goannas locked in the cellar, for now, while the Pickers moved just two points off the top in the NRL Blues Tag.
— TABLE: Central, Wests (8), Souths, Maitland (6), Kurri, Lakes (4), Nelson Bay, Macquarie (2), Cessnock (0).