Following on from what is a special Junior League Nines tournament at Sutherland Oval today, in a first for the hallowed turf of Southern Cross Group Stadium, women’s rugby league will take centre stage when the Lyn Smith Trophy kicks off as the first of two significant junior league match ups next Wednesday.
An event named after the popular long-time junior league volunteer from the Sutherland Loftus Club, women’s teams from Cronulla Caringbah and the Redfern All Blacks will do battle for the inaugural Lyn Smith Trophy, before men’s teams from both districts clash in what will be the 20th Jack Gibson Cup.
The Gibson Cup, struck in honour of the legendary former premiership winning coach who had been in charge of both the Sharks and Souths during his illustrious career, is contested between A Grade players selected from the Cronulla and Souths Sydney junior league competitions.
However while the Gibson Cup is about to be played for the 20th time, as explained by Cronulla-Sutherland JRL manager Nathan Waugh, the emergence and growth of the women’s game has prompted the first staging of a women’s fixture to complement the annual men’s match.
“It was just an idea we put to Souths in that we already had the traditional men’s game so why not add more to the showpiece,” Waugh said. “We’re looking at being pioneers as far as women in league now and hopefully that can continue moving forward.
“It should be a really exciting couple of games and we’re hoping people will come out and support it.”
As for the woman about who the trophy the two teams will compete for, Lyn Smith said it was both an honour and a surprise when she heard her name would be the most prominent on the special piece of silverware.
“I’m quite honoured,” Lyn began. “It was brought up at the last junior league meeting then that was the last I’d heard about it until I was reading the Leader and saw my name.”
A junior league volunteer for our 40 years, Lyn began her involvement with the game when her son ran out for the Loftus Pirates back in 1975.
By the late 1970’s she was helping out at the Pirates, before they merged and she moved with the Loftus to Sutherland-Loftus in 1983.
“We had two treasurers when the clubs merged and I was one of them and since then I’ve been Secretary, Vice President and Assistant Secretary. I’m still the Assistant Secretary now,” she added.
From the modest beginnings Lyn’s association with the game spread to the district level, where she was a delegate for her club, before becoming a junior VP and the Social Secretary, a position she held until just last year.
Lyn is a Life Member of the Cronulla-Sutherland Junior League.
“Lyn Smith has been involved in and around our competition for over 30 years now as part of the junior league and she’s such a prominent woman in our area,” Waugh added.
The Cronulla Caringbah Sharks women’s team, the only female rugby league team in the Sutherland Shire, boasts five players who are current Australian representatives in Ruan Sims, Corban McGregor, Allana Ferguson, Maddie Studdon and Sam Bremner. They will play with a Sharks pathways logo on their jerseys in signifying their link with the NRL club.
As for the Jack Gibson game, as is usually the case, a competitive and intense contest is assured.
“Our guys are the holders but it’s always a very close game with not much in it,” Waugh said.
The Cronulla Jack Gibson team is to be captained by Gymea’s James Spencer and coached by Wes Phillips.
The Lyn Smith Trophy is scheduled to get underway at 5.45pm, with the Jack Gibson Cup kicking off at 7.00pm.
As for today at Sutherland Oval, five local Junior League clubs will do battle for the inaugural Huxley's Nines Tournament.
Beginning at 10am, De La Salle, Aquinas, Gymea, St Josephs and Cronulla Caringbah have assembled their best exponents of the Nines format for a round robin tournament.
Round robin matches run through until 1.00pm, a Golden Oldies and Women's League Touch Match is scheduled for 1.20pm, with the finals beginning at 2.00pm.
The Grand Final gets underway at 3.00pm.
All spectators are welcome and encouraged to attend both the Nines and Wednesday's matches at Southern Cross Group Stadium.