Fielding a team missing five of their NSW Origin stars and playing in testing conditions at the Rex Jackson Oval at Helensburgh, the Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership Sharks have gone down 16-14 in the final match of the regular season.
With the stiff southerly at their back the Sharks started strongly, were up by eight early, following tries to Talei Holmes and Ella Barker and by half time had built up a handy lead.
From there, according to coach Tony Herman, the Sharks were their own worst enemies, with their opponents adapting to the awful conditions and coming home strongly to send the Cronulla girls into the competition finals on the back of just their second loss of the 2021 season.
“The trouble with conditions like today, big wind, wet field, a lot of rain around, you’ve got to play really smart and I don’t think we were smart today,” Herman said. “The effort was there, the girls tried incredibly hard, but I don’t think we were smart enough to play the conditions.
“We didn’t kick early enough, gave away silly penalties and let them out of their end, just weren’t smart, whether we had the wind or were against it,” he added.
While disappointed with the loss, for Herman and the Sharks it wasn’t all doom and gloom, with some of the younger members of the squad getting a taste of senior women’s rugby league in place of the absent NSW Origin players in a hostile environment and in the difficult conditions.
“We had a couple out, but all that does is create opportunity and I thought they tried to take that opportunity as best they could. A lot of these younger girls will be better for today, that’s for sure,” the coach reasoned.
Two of the more experienced campaigners in Talei Holmes and Kaala Cowan were singled out by Herman as being amongst his team’s best on the day.
Sharks halfback Maddi Studdon, who was in NSW Origin camp and missed the Tigers match, finished the season as the HNWP leading point scorer with 102 on the year, which Holmes was second leading try scorer amongst all teams with 13 four-pointers.
After a season which saw the Sharks drop just two games, the first to minor premiers the Central Coast Roosters before Saturday’s loss, in finishing in clear third-place on the competition ladder. They now have a week’s break for the rep round before taking part in the finals series the week following.
“That’s the end of the rounds, there’s six alive and we’re one of them. That’s what we intended to do at the start of the year, now it’s up to us,” Herman said.
Sharks media will communicate match details for round one of the HNWP finals when they become available.
Talei Holmes, Ella Barker, Jae Withers tries, Kaala Cowan goal
HELENSBURGH TIGERS 16