Gloucester Cockies to put up a women's and a men's team

Brooke Turner is getting into the swing of thing at training. Photo Kirsten Jory
Brooke Turner is getting into the swing of thing at training. Photo Kirsten Jory

The Gloucester Cockies have been rugby union's standard bearers of the ranges in recent winters only for their women's triumph in the 2018 Lower Mid North Coast premiership to be despoiled by the club's inability to raise adequate numbers for a men's team last season.

Gloucester is sometimes considered a single football team town, strong enough for rugby union or rugby league, but simply on township and regional population statistics, unable to find the manpower for both codes to field regularly strong teams.

By extraordinary chance, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on some rugby and rugby league competitions in the Newcastle and Hunter Valley region appear likely to be beneficial to the Cockies with this winter's Lower MNC's shortened 10-game minor premiership and four-club final play-offs, starting on July 11, having appeal for a number of out-of-towners.

Kelly Rees

Kelly Rees

The Cockies' women's coach, Chris Marchant, confirmed this week that the club will field a men's team again this winter after receiving inquiries from players outside the region, interested in involvement in the Lower MNC competition and strengthening the men's competition again to six clubs.

Coach Marchant has been delighted by the influx of "strangers" while indicating that local players will have priority.

Nevertheless, just how long the policy remains in place will be seen as the premiership battle mounts.

Talent and team spirit develop ambition and hunger for a long-sought prize.

Gloucester's men have still to win the Kennards Hire rugby premiership since the MNC Zone was divided in two competitions in 2008.

"The good thing is these players approached us," he said.

"We didn't approach them, they're diehards from Maitland and Hamilton and Merewether, fellers who just want a game."

Marchant, a hardened "Green Rats" product of Warringah club in Sydney and an astute coach, expressed the opinion of many officials of how essential it was that a junior development system be established for the long-term survival of the competition.

Several years ago, an under-19 competition was introduced with some success, a logical stepping stone for teenage players rather than thrusting youths into scrummaging against vastly experienced forwards, sometimes years older and of up to 110-120 kilograms.

Sara McBride and Kayla Jory at training. Photo Kirsten Jory

Sara McBride and Kayla Jory at training. Photo Kirsten Jory

Marchant said that while the women players' training has been disrupted by the pandemic, the Cockies' good numbers will "make them a useful team again. The plan is to out-last our opposition, if not to out-skill them."

Clare Shultz has been appointed the team's new captain with Rhea Holstein moving to Newcastle.

Other players impressing are the newcomer, Chantelle Franks, as well as Charlotte Maslen and Jess McNally.

Lucklessly, Sara McBride displaced her shoulder at training this week.