Members of the NRL Victoria Female Academy will return to club training next week, with the program that has seen some of Victoria’s best female rugby league talent come together to train and learn over the past 12-weeks finishing up phase 1 of the academy prep yesterday.
The academy has been home to girls of differing age and experience from a wide range of local clubs, with both the women’s and U/19’s squads coming together to take part in the program that’s aimed at improving the skills and conditioning of the players in the lead up to the Women’s National Championships to be held in QLD on the 9-12th of June.
NRL Victoria Pathways and Coaching Manager Tim Auremi said it’s been great to see programs like the Academy help the women’s game continue to grow in Victoria.
“We’re hoping that this program can help expose more females to an environment where they can potentially in the years ahead become part of either support or coaching staff for the next generation,” Auremi said.
“Have to say a big thanks for the effort of all the girls and to all the coaching staff and support staff for putting in the work to create a great learning environment.”
With weekly training sessions every Tuesday and Thursday based out at Mount Ridley and Hallam Secondary College, the squad has been able to learn from the number of experienced coaching and support staff available to them.
Head Coach of the women’s squad Brandon Taunoa said that despite the challenges that female rugby league in Victoria has faced over the past two years, there have been plenty of positives to take out of the program.
“Moving forward it’ll be good for the game especially in Melbourne as you never know there may be a women’s Melbourne storm team one day.
“For now it’s all about trying to build the comp, improve the girls skills and make sure they get the basics right because that’s what makes good players,” he said.
The academy is playing a key role in ensuring the squads are approaching this year’s national championships with a unified approach, with dedicated strength and conditioning coaches Sonia De Rose and Rachel Pezzano looking to improve the squads performance in the gym and out on the field, to ensure they’ll be competitive against the other states despite a disrupted lead up to the season.
De Rose said that for the players that were regularly able to attend trainings, the coaching staff noticed a significant improvement.
“The girls that have been in attendance regularly have made some really good progress, we actually did some stats on that last week and sent out to the girls and it was really good what we saw was that they are getting towards a really strong level,” De Rose said.
With most of the girls being part of the program for the better part of a year, De Rose hopes that they can realise the potential impact they can have on other players in the hope to draw new talent in the future.
“It’s the girls back at club and community level that need to see this cause at the moment we just don’t have that nice flow of talent to the degree that we should,” she said.
“The resources are here, the coaches are here, the strength coaches, the wellness officers are here, we have nutrition going out to the girls, the context is here we just need the humans.”
The lack of rugby league action over the past two years has had a serious impact on the squads in the lead up to the 2022 season, with De Rose believing that many of the girls felt that they weren’t properly prepared.
“Community football was impacted because a lot of the girls weren’t getting consistency at the community footy level and a lot of them felt didn’t feel prepared or were underdone,” she said.
“A lot of the girls I spoke to were saying they weren’t feeling ready yet and that’s clearly because they weren’t getting that community sport.
“Looking ahead, we’ll send out programs and we’re going to do some testing once a month so the girls can get together as a group and see how everyone is going and we’ll probably see them in February or March as we ramp up preparations for nationals.”