At the beginning of the Newcastle Rugby League Blues Tag season, Sarah Delaney wasn’t even sure she’d be taking to the field in 2019. After two years with the Maitland Pickers, Delaney had left the club, and was still a free agent with kick-off rapidly approaching.
“I had done my whole preasesason with the Pickers, but that didn’t work out in the end so I was kind of left in this state of limbo where I had no idea if I was going to be playing rugby league this year,” she told the Chronicle. “Then Macquarie gave me a call.”
After being selected for the NRL All-Stars game ahead of the season, Delaney had clearly impressed those behind the scenes at the Scorpions. They gave her a call, and asked her to join the team. Delaney accepted, then two weeks later was offered even more.
“Initially I was just coming on board with the Scorpions as a player, but after a week or two of training and preparing they approached me again and said the wanted me to take on the captaincy, and the club coaching role,” she explained. “Being passionate about developing women’s sport and rugby league, I knew that I had to accept.
“I took the job, and wanted to show that I could excel in a role that was so often male-dominated, and wanted to show myself and everyone that I could be equal to the ask. I grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
It wasn’t a split-second decision, however. Delaney revealed she “sat on the choice” for a couple of weeks, before agreeing to take on the leading role.
“I had to ask myself whether I had the capability to take on this major role at the club, but right from the get-go I felt so welcome at the Scorpions and I think that reassured me that I could succeed,” she said. “I reached out to a few of my old mentors too, and spoke to them about it and they gave me a lot of advice about it all.”
The first challenge for Delaney was a simple one. Macquarie was building a Blues Tag team from the ground up as the entered the league in 2019, and many of the girls on the roster hadn’t even played rugby league before.
“There are a lot of new girls in the team, so a lot of the focus that we’ve been doing has been on fundamental skills and all of that,” she said. “The team is filled with motivated girls that are just eager to learn and grow, so that makes it easy as well.
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“It’s been so much fun so far teaching them, and I never back down from a challenge in life. To show these girls what rugby league is, and to get them developing in training and on gamedays has been so rewarding. In just six weeks they’ve come so far.”
The Scorpions have had a difficult start to the 2019 season on the scoreboard, and now sit in ninth place with a 0-4 record after the opening six rounds. While they have not yet chalked up in a win in their campaign, Delaney said they “weren’t worried in the slightest.”
“It’s not about the scoreboard for us yet, we’re building a team from absolutely nothing, and taking it to something, so that’s what our plan is for now,” she said. “Recruitment is a big part of our team aims at the moment. Yes, it’s a competition, but first of all we want all these girls at the club to have fun, and love the game.”
While the Macquarie coach is trying to teach the “love of the game” to her girls in the squad, she said she’s also fallen in love with a side of the game she never thought she would.
“I’ve got the bug,” she laughed. “I want to get my teeth into coaching as much as I can now, and being able to teach these girls all these new things is just such a cool experience.”
Delaney also said that their recruitment motto stretched to any girls that were interested in trying out rugby league for the first time. At the Scorpions, all are welcome, she said.
“If there are girls that are interested in coming along, don’t be afraid at all,” she said. “We had four new girls turn up just this week, and they’ve loved training and we’re going to get them into the team this weekend. It’s a great way to be introduced to the game, and I think it’s a fun first step.”
The Scorpions return to the field this weekend in the Blues Tag competition when they face the Nelson Bay Sharks (two wins, four losses in 2019) at Peacock Field. The game will kickoff at 10am on Saturday, June 1.
Elsewhere in the competition, Wests (5-1) face Souths (5-2) in a major league battle at Harker Oval, while Central welcome Kurri Kurri to St John Oval, and Lakes will play against Cessnock on Sunday morning.