In September 2018 Orrell St James formed their first ever Women’s Open age Team. No one knew really what to expect as a handful of players from other clubs, joined a predominantly youthful bunch of 9 girls transitioning straight from the under 16’s ranks. The team entered the Women’s Rugby League Association Division 1 and the Orrell ladies quickly took the league by storm, racking up an average of 60 plus points a match during their immense first season.
Even the more established teams were left shocked, with Odsal being the first to fall to the Orrell onslaught.
However an away game to Cutsyke proved to be a tough physical one, as expected, and they suffered their first defeat of the season losing 12 – 10. It was to be their only defeat, as they became even more focused and determined to succeed amongst a strong Yorkshire contingent and two weeks later came away winners in the return home game.
Throughout the rest of the season the coaches were able to rotate the team and utilise the strength and support of experienced players, along with many of the younger U16s players. Many of the younger players shone through, with Leah Porter, Lauren Gillham and Young Player of the Year Libby Heyes making a real impact in their debut seasons.
In addition to the league and cup games Orrell were also heavily represented in the Lancashire squad for the Origin game. They narrowly lost with no less than ten players making the final playing squad. Although disappointed, it inspired players to prove their fantastic motivation and Orrell showed their determination and commitment to their team and became even more focused, finishing with only the one loss all season, accumulating over 400 points for, and less than 70 points against.
They matched this outstanding effort by making the final of the Challenge cup.
In the first leg they faced Odsal and secured a great 44 – 6 win.
The quarter finals saw them face Premiership side Huddersfield ladies and an outstanding performance showed in their 34-0 victory.
The semi final win against Cutsyke was a supreme performance by the team, with numerous Yorkshire teams on the touchline also eager to see the highly anticipated semi final. Orrell’s victory again showed exactly the same focus, skill and team spirit they have exhibited at all season with the final score reflecting just how determined they were and not allowing their opponents to score a single point.
The final against Featherstone will be Orrell’s toughest challenge of the season so far and will be a game not to be missed.
Many of the players have been outstanding, both on and off the pitch, from supporting younger team members,to motivation and commitment to training and match days. Notable mentions go to Coaches Player of the Year Claire Mullaney, Players’ Player Demi-Lea Fisher, and Club Captain Abbey Latchford who have each had an outstanding season, raising the standards for all the ladies to follow. Demi-lea finished the regular season as top points scorer.
Courtesy of Orrell St James