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"We want to give girls every opportunity to pull on the Red, White and Blue"  - Strange

For newly appointed Sydney Roosters NRLW Head Coach John Strange, the opportunity to develop pathways for the women's game is his magnum opus.

The former Head Coach of the Central Coast Roosters' Harvey Norman Women's Premiership side - who were undefeated through 2020 - has now made the step up to the NRLW for season 2021, crediting his time as a development manager for his rapid rise through the ranks. 

“I’ve been working for the Roosters for five years, looking after the Central Coast region, which a big Rugby League nursery," Strange said.

"I started off as the development manager for the boys coming through, and then it was about setting up a Central Coast side for our Tarsha Gale (U19s) as a pathway to the NRLW. 

“Now that we have the Central Coast Roosters side, it’s really important for us to create that direct pathway to the NRLW. We want to give the girls – not just those on the Central Coast – every opportunity to play at every age and every level to one day pull on the Red, White and Blue of the Roosters.

"I’m really excited, I'm passionate about the women’s game, and it's been great working with them so far."

Making his mark: Newly appointed NRLW Head Coach John Strange will be looking to lead the Roosters to another Grand Final.
Making his mark: Newly appointed NRLW Head Coach John Strange will be looking to lead the Roosters to another Grand Final.

Strange believes the most rewarding part of his role is his players' matched enthusiasm and passion for learning, particularly with those who have limited experience playing Rugby League.

“The NRLW players take in a lot of questions and absolutely want to learn everything and improve," he explained.

“The thing that was evident to me last year was that there are girls who have never played Rugby League before or had limited experience, but they’re athletes, they've got skills and are willing to learn. 

“A great example is Jocelyn Kelleher, we actually recruited her while she was playing AFL.

"We asked her to trial, she came along and despite her initial hesitation, she ended up starting in the backrow for us.

"She started in every game for us in the Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership, and then went on to play every game in the NRLW. That was her first year playing Rugby League. 

John Strange's Central Coast Roosters took out the Premiership in 2020

“It’s rewarding because you can bring in women with different sporting backgrounds who want to play Rugby League and they can excel because they want to learn, they want to improve and they want to take everything in."

With a number of months before the season kicks off, Strange will be monitoring the Central Coast Roosters and Tarsha Gale performances as the Club builds towards its fourth NRLW campaign. 

“The good thing is we’ve got the Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership in the meantime before the NRLW kicks off," he said.

"We will be looking to bring in a majority of the players from the Central Coast side. I’ll be monitoring and keeping an eye on that competition, as well as the other players that we will potentially bring into the squad.

“It’s a good grounding for me because I’ll be in and around the comp and we’ll be able to see how the players are developing and help them along the way, particularly the ones in the Central Coast squad.

“After the Grand Final, we’ll have about a four-week break before NRLW kicks off so it gives us a bit of time to bring the squad together for preparation."

We want to give the girls – not just those on the Central Coast – every opportunity to play at every age and every level to one day pull on the Red, White and Blue of the Roosters

John Strange Roosters NRLW Coach

Strange says he was impressed with a number of performances from last week's Women's Indigenous All Stars match - which featured eleven players from last year's NRLW squad - and hopes to see a majority of the 2020 side return for the upcoming season. 

“There was obviously a lot of Roosters playing in both sides, which was pleasing to see. The Māori side were very strong and had a dominant performance led by our captain Corban McGregor," he said. 

Zehara (Temara) I thought was probably the best player on the field, Kennedy Cherrington worked hard as she always does, and Shanice Parker was great on the wing. Nita Maynard was strong out of dummy half and Bo (Botille Vette-Welsh) was strong at the back.

“We also had Quincy Dodd who kept busy, both Caitlan Johnston and Kaitlyn Phillips brought aggression when they needed to, and Keilee (Joseph) added some energy to the side from the bench while Olivia Kernick was solid in the backrow."

"I can't wait to get going in 2021."