With the demise of Newcastle’s championship NSW Women’s Premiership squad following the dissolution of Country Rugby League, and the amalgamation of the governing body into NSWRL, Hunter league talent was left without a close home.
That is, until the announcement of the Sydney Roosters’ Central Coast roster, which is overflowing with Hunter talent, from young starlets Caitlan Johnston and Olivia Kernick, to representative superstars like Hannah Southwell and Isabelle Kelly.
On top of that, the tricolours outfit will now officially be helmed by Novocastrian hero Kylie Hilder, as reported by the Women’s Chronicle last month. She called time on her career in 2019, and already coached the Roosters Nines squad in February.
Hilder will be joined in a co-coaching capacity by John Strange, who has been involved in Central Coast junior development for the past few years.
As well as a host of coastal talent, the newly-revealed premiership roster is dripping with Hunter stars. As well as the aforementioned Johnston, Kernick, Southwell, and Kelly, a number of Newcastle champions join the ranks.
Olivia Higgins, Melanie Howard, Bobbi Law, Tazmyne Luschwitz, Taylah Predebon, Claire Reed, Alyssa Tai, and Jasmin Strange all played major roles in Rick Stones’ Newcastle squad that marched to the 2019 title.
The CRL stars will be joined by a number of players who first made their name with the Newcastle Knights in the Tarsha Gale Cup too, including Shenay Ball, Jocelyn Kelleher, Joeli Morris, and of course Indigenous rep star Johnston.
Reed, Tai, and Alicia Wright have also pulled on the Roosters’ colours before, running out for the Central Coast team in the CRL Women’s Tackle Representative Squad alongside stars like Kirra Dibb last year.
The squad also includes former North Newcastle livewire Jayme Fressard, who has been on the comeback trail after rupturing her ACL and MCL ahead of the inaugural NRL Women’s competition in 2018. She also missed the entire 2019 season.
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There are also a few faces from Newcastle’s title-winning team missing from the Roosters squad. Bec Young and Kylie Hilder both, of course, retired from rugby league at the end of last season, while Holli Wheeler was injured at the NRLW Nines.
Wheeler was expected to play for a Sydney club regardless of her shock-injury, however, the Chronicle understands. Newcastle stars Emma Young and Sophie Buller, as well as bench impact regular Chantelle Graham, have also not been named.
Sydney Roosters chief executive Joe Kelly said the club was pleased to welcome the new team, and said he was looking forward to seeing the growth of the “star-studded” squad heading into 2020 and beyond.
“The announcement of the Central Coast Roosters Women’s team further strengthens the pathways of the Sydney Roosters Women’s Program, with teams already in the Tarsha Gale and NRL Holden Women’s Premiership,” he added.
The team will be based at the Roosters’ new high-performance facility at Tuggerah Lakes Secondary College on the Central Coast.
The Central Coast Roosters will begin their 2020 campaign on Saturday, March 14 when they take on the Cronulla Sharks at PointsBet Stadium at 4pm.
Roosters full 2020 squad: Shenay Ball, Shawden Burton, Anika Butler, Jayme Fressard, Emma Frost, Olivia Higgins, Melanie Howard, Caitlan Johnston, Madeline Jones, Isabelle Kelly, Jocelyn Kelleher, Olivia Kernick, Bobbi Law, Tazmyne Lushwitz, Alicia Martin, Joeli Morris, Shaneice Nathan, Brooke Peachey, Taylah Predebon, Claire Reed, Hannah Southwell, Jasmin Strange, Alyssa Tai, Madeline Watson, Alicia Wright.