Teens set for the big stage
RUGBY UNION: Two young Emerald girls are both excited and nervous as they prepare for the opportunity of a lifetime.
Kaleeca Herbert and Saffron Marr have been named in the Central Highlands Titans squad for the Women's 15s State Championship, which will be played in Brisbane early next month.
Kaleeca, 17, said she was in a state of shock when she found out she had been selected.
"I haven't played a lot of women's rugby union - I mainly play under-17s, so this is really nerve-racking,” she said.
"The responsibility has got me really nervous but I think it is going to be a great privilege and a great experience.”
The teenager said rugby union had become a big part of her life over the past three years.
"It is the only other thing I do outside of school aside from work,” she said.
She said the sport had boosted her confidence, allowed her to make new friends, put herself out there and find out what she truly enjoyed in life.
"Yes, it is competitive but it's still a family,” she said.
Kaleeca is also excited by the opportunity to represent the Central Highlands region in the big city.
"It's going to be a lot of weight on our shoulders but I think it is something to prove, to not only our region, how good women's rugby union can be,” she said.
"We also want to prove how much we have developed as a team and that we deserve to be there - really show what we can do and learn more while we are there.
"We are going down not just with the aim to win, but to gain more experience.
"But we definitely want the worst possible outcome to be that we tried our best and got to experience it.”
Saffron, 17, said she was shocked as well when she found out she had been selected in the squad at such a young age.
"I started playing women's when I was 15,” she said.
"I have played a little bit throughout the years, but those women we are playing with and against have been playing for 30 years and have been there since the very start of women's rugby union.
"It's going to be a great honour to play with them and a great experience.”
The 17-year-old said it was such a big responsibility to go south and represent the region.
"We are only a small club that started not long ago, so to go down as Titans is a massive accomplishment for us,” she said.
"Also, to see how far we have developed from two years ago - myself and Kaleeca couldn't catch a ball - I think that is going to be a big accomplishment as well.
"But to come from a small country town and play against the big city teams that train two to three times a week is going to be hectic.”
Saffron remembered back to when it all began, when she was anxious and terrified and dragging her friends along to training.
She said the sport had helped her in more ways than just physical fitness.
"Sport has such a good impact on your mental health,” she said.
"This is a massive community that is so accepting. It is like a second family.”
Saffron said she had her eye on the state title.
"You can say you want to learn, but at the end of the day everyone wants to win,” she said.
"We can only hope that with our training and with coming together as a team that can be the outcome. Winning is the best possible outcome we could hope for.”
Coach Karl Marr said they had picked some strong players from across the region to represent the Central Highlands in the state championship.
"We wanted to make sure we were going down with the strongest team possible,” he said.
"We want to go down there and show them the quality of women's rugby union in the country is as strong as anywhere.
"People just assume if they are in Brisbane they must be better, and there is little evidence to support that. Some of the girls we have got playing for us are absolute first class.
"I can easily see a world we live in where the Central Highlands for the next five to 10 years are the team no one wants to play.
"We want to go down there and be the big fish.”
Meet the CH Titans
Deb Barchard, Jade Belleville, Tegan Davidson, Sharnah Komene, Ngaire Linde, Tara Lindly, Lexi Magnussen, Cass Marks, Saffron Marr, Emmaley May, Kirstyn McCallum, Lucy Stafford, Holly Zischke.
Mackenzie Bean, Tayla Bean, Arnika Cave, Oliva Cave, Taryn Comiskey, Miranda Davidson, Ari Deon, Maisha Giles, Kaleeca Herbet, Haylea Lonergan, Danielle Plummer.
Karl Marr and Connor MacLennan.
Note: Two more players are to be confirmed.