Central have moved out to a five-point lead atop the Monarch Blues Tag competition after defeating close rivals Wests 20-10 at St Johns Oval on Sunday morning.
The league leaders, who have yet to lose a game in the Newcastle Rugby League women’s premiership so far this year, arrived at their home fixture with just 12 players in their gameday squad.
The one-reserve clash for the Butcher Birds set up a “mental battle” that the pacesetters had to face – one Joel Sklenar said they cleared with ease.
“We haven’t had a lot of consistency in the past few weeks, especially with that draw against Lakes recently, so to have that at our backs and then come into a game that is always going to be tough against Wests with just 12 players shows how strong these girls can be,” the Central boss told the Chronicle after the 10-point win.
“It was a real mental struggle for these girls, but they rose to the challenge and we’ve showed the league that we can grab these kind of results with limited players. I think the win has given the girls the faith now that they can do anything. It was a special effort.”
Blanche Morrisey led the way for the Butcher Birds in terms of points, opening the scoring with a penalty kick. The Rosellas were first on the board in regards to four-pointers, taking a 4-2 lead in the 31st minute through Seiannah Olsen.
Morrisey opened Wests up to regain the lead in the 36th minute. Lily Goodchild streaked down the centre of the field three minutes later to give the home side a 14-4 advantage.
Taylah Lobley clinched the 20-point haul with a cut-out pass Phoebe Maaguire that fired her down the left wing and under the sticks.
“Despite being down players, we stuck to the gameplan and that came out on the field. Brodi Ingram especially was key for us in the middle, a lot of her efforts set up Lily [Goodchild] to get fantastic chances. We were able to open them up like that,” Sklenar said.
The five-point buffer has opened up for the Birds now, but the Central coach said he and his side had only lightly touched on the potential to clinch the minor premiership. For them, the focus now is on “resetting” their season for finals.
“We haven’t spoken too much about the future yet, but we did talk about the fact that we want to treat this like the start of the season again. If we want to get to where we’re aiming for, we have to work as hard as we can,” he said.
“To kick-start that final run-in period with a win with 12 players is pretty handy, especially considering any top four team can win against another in this league. We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves just yet, the girls have to work to earn the position that we’re in at the moment. Our season really begins now.”
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Also on Sunday morning, Lakes moved into equal second-place with a 14-nil win over Kurri Kurri at Cahill Oval. Earlier in Round 11, Souths edged Maitland in a tight 8-6 clash at Townson Oval to keep the Lionesses in the three-way tie on 18 points.
Finally, the Goannas notched a 62-nil win over the Scorpions at the Cessnock Sportsground. Isabelle Garvie had a field day in front of her home crowd, crossing four times for Cessnock, while Ashlea Musgrove scored a double.
TABLE: Central (23), Lakes, Wests, Souths (18), Kurri (15), Maitland (12), Nelson Bay (10), Cessnock (6), Macquarie (4).