You would expect a team that has yet to play a competitive game this season to a bit apprehensive going into an Eastern Canadian championship, but that’s not the way The Rock senior women’s rugby team and coach Dick Barter see it.
The Rock will compete in a double round-robin against Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island in Truro, N.S. this weekend and Barter is confident his team has the ability to return with a title despite the odds against them.
Barter said the team’s five core players — Charlene (Pony) Barter, Danielle (Twig) Browne, Leah (Downtown) Downton, Deidre Rees and captain Andria Cantwell — are “a talented bunch” and “can carry the team.” He also said the team’s front row may be the best it’s ever been.
Barter, is back with the women’s team after a three-year hiatus.
His decision came after he talked to some of the team’s veterans last Christmas.
“We talked about it and they asked if I’d think about coming back. I said if you guys can guarantee me players, I’ll coach the team.” he said. “There’s no question the team struggled getting players out to practice in recent years, but they’ve come through this year for the most part.
“I’m not teaching these guys to play rugby,” noted Barter. “Simon (Blanks) taught them to play along with Roxanne (Butler), to a certain extent.
But there has been no local opposition for them.
Barter said a “mix and match” game between the senior Rock and the provincial under-20 team would have helped.
Regardless, he says the team is capable of producing a winner.
“The first five or 10 minutes will be hard for us because we’ve been unopposed for so long,” he said. “We cannot make mistakes. What we’re concentrating on in practice is error-free rugby and maintaining possession. We have to avoid turning the ball over. If you fall behind it’s tough to get back into it.
“We can beat anybody. The big battle will be up front and getting the ball from our own set pieces. We need to win our own lineouts and set scrums. If we can do that and don’t make stupid mistakes we’ll do fine. But we need to play with our heads as well as our hearts.”
Newfoundland is scheduled to host the East championship next season and Barter says he wants to go into that tournament as defending champion.
The Rock women lost last year’s final to Nova Scotia.
Cantwell also feels the team will be competitive and says the players are ready to go.
“We have a good team overall. If we keep focused and keep our heads in the game, we will be contenders in this year’s tournament. We feel good about our capability as a team,” said Cantwell.
“We have a strong pack of forwards, probably the strongest pack we have ever brought to competition.”
Cantwell also pointed out, “Many of our players have been playing together for over 10 years, so we’ve got some good chemistry on the field when it comes to connecting the forwards to the backs.”
Other members of the team are Shaina Adams, Carla Chaytor, Steph Flemming, Danika Gulliford, Alison Jenkins, Laura Kieley, Rebecca Long, Vanessa Norris, Maria Philpott, Robyn Power, Kate Rose, Desiree Simmonds, Holly Thomson, Casey Thorburn and assistant coach Stefan Barter.