The lights will shine at Inverell Rugby Park Friday night, when the Highlanders men and women’s 7s competition gets rumbling on the paddock.
For the first time, the Highlanders will debut a women’s side on February 10, with coach Dale Beattie at the helm and a raft of experienced, hungry players ready to take the field.
Twenty-four-year old Kearni Churchland was more than ready for the formal team to compete. “A few years ago we had a team, but it was just a one Saturday here and there; it wasn’t anything massive,” she said.
This time around, they are ready again, and Kearni said they would have all the players they needed, with subs to boot.
“Sevens is much about your agility and your speed. The players are more from a touch perspective, where it’s so much quicker,” she said.
“I prefer 15s, because there’s more people on the field, you’ve got all that support around you, but in saying that, I’ve played in a few sevens comps when I moved away, and I quite enjoyed them. There was more space for me to run.”
With the competition being one of the largest in country NSW we are very lucky and humbled by the support we receive from the greater Inverell community each year.Tom Davidson
The Highlanders women’s 7s coach dale Beattie said they are looking to start a 7s comp for the central north as the sport is gaining a lot of interest, especially following the Australian women’s gold medal at the Rio Olympics. But he felt it will take a bit of time to establish the side in Inverell.
“We’re still finding our feet in terms of getting secure numbers, on a club level, but it certainly has raised the profile of the sport,” Dale said.
Highlanders A grade coach Tom Davidson said they were very excited about the addition of the women’s competition.
“The Central North will be running an open and under 17s women's comp this year, and the representative pathways within the women's game are building well, with UNE just being named as one of the sides in a new university-based national competition designed to complete the pathway into the national side,” he said.
“With the competition being one of the largest in country NSW we are very lucky and humbled by the support we receive from the greater Inverell community each year.”
Play will begin at 6pm tonight, with 10 men's teams and four women's teams. There is no entry fee. Food and drink facilities will be open with families encouraged to come along and cheer on the teams.
The NSW Waratahs development crew are supporting with referees in conjunction with the Central North referees.
Next week, the schools based comp will start running from 4:30-6pm on February 17, and the NSW Waratahs manager of pathways, and former Wallabies manager, Michael Doyle will attend the finals night on February 24.
Tom urged the community to “come down and experience a few of his best yarns”.