Guest blog by Waterloo Ladies Rugby
Waterloo ladies started this season with the express goal of reaching the Premiership of women’s rugby. Having made in to the North South promotion playoff two seasons before, and winning every league match for two years, the team were all keen to take things one step further.
Pre-season began all the way back in July on a small patch of park in Bootle. Tuesdays and Thursdays soon consisted mainly of skills and weights, both to prove a challenge to some. With new high standards for the season set, many of us had to reconsider our nutrition and diet and we saw Lucy Bee as someone who could really help with that.
With new players joining the team, some having never picked up a rugby ball before, there was lots of work for coach, Steph Veal and the team to undertake on the pitch. On the other hand some of the more seasoned players in the squad were, let’s say, somewhat less accustomed to the gym (no fingers pointed). But with plenty of support from coaches and team mates everyone soon got into the routine.
For myself as a self-confessed, lazy, unfit, single paced, front row the highlight of the week was always Sunday, match day…… I wish. Sunday meant conditioning. So back to the park in Bootle for tempo runs (sprints without getting slower the more you do) and seemingly endless games of touch rugby. To make things better, no matter what the weeks forecast, storms, rain, (you know, good British summer weather) come Sunday between the hours of 11 and 1 the sun would be shining and it would be hot. The only saving grace being regular weekly visits from the parks other inhabitants, whether this be Bella the disobedient Doberman puppy or Billy the local spouse kid who came to watch.
Pre-season finally came to a climax with a friendly against Premiership team Worcester with the ladies keen to test themselves. The game was hard and very close but eventually saw Waterloo win out 40-36 against a slightly stunned Worcester.
This year’s season kicked off against newly promoted Loughborough. Not knowing what to expect, the team wanted to take the previous week’s performance into their league campaign. Although the match was, in places, hard fought the first game was eventually secured in style with a 50-18 victory.
The first round of games went on to see trips to Newcastle, Birmingham and Manchester, with the team thoroughly beating old adversaries Camp Hill 59-5. One particular highlight was scoring triple figures against visitors West Bridgeford, officially winning the game 101-0. I say officially as tallying up the score on video afterwards actually calculates the score at 106-0, not that we’re complaining.
November also saw the beginning of the Senior Cup Competition. This gives some of the North 1 teams a chance to face Premiership opposition. The team kicked off with an epic journey down to Kent to face the team that beat them in their North South play off 2 years ago, Aylesford Bulls. Knowing that Bulls were struggling in the Prem and being unbeaten ourselves, we went into the game with every confidence.
With the gym work clearly paying off the forwards put up a strong battle in the scrum, which even at Premiership level Aylesford are used to dominating. Combining this with high tempo and good handling from the backs the team were able to face an arduous journey home knowing that they had the win. Final score 19-7
With the first half of the season completed successfully, the girls were keen to press on to the end, focusing particularly on the final league match of the season. Although every other game repeated in the same order as the first half of the season, somehow second placed Loughborough, unbeaten since their opener at Waterloo, ended up being the season’s grand finale. We gravelled to Loughborough knowing that a win would guarantee us league champions in as many years.
The home team proved a fit and athletic rival, and looking back I think many of the team were glad of a season’s fitness work as well as focusing on our conditioning and nutrition more closely than in previous seasons. The girls went on to get the job done in style with a 43-5 win. Which was duly celebrated on the way home with a meal out and significant amounts of cake. There was a birthday after all.
With the league won there was now just one job left to do. A postponed game from before Christmas against local rivals Birkenhead Park was all that stood between the team and perfection. One more 5 try bonus point win would leave us with 14 played, 14 won and, you guessed it 14 bonus points. Always up for a derby match the season ended with a great deal of physicality and “witty banter” from both teams. Mention of a full English breakfast featuring heavily! Waterloo taking the win 60-0.
With the league all wrapped up you’d think it’s time to celebrate any relax. However it’s not over yet. To reach the Premiership the team has still got possibly its 2 hardest tests. The play offs. The first play off will take place against Waterloo’s Southern counterparts Thurrock, winners of the South 1 league and ex Premiership team.
The game takes place on 22nd of February and preparation is well underway with a new round of conditioning and gym work already in progress, as well as guest coaches and skill work. A visit from ex-England international Claire Purdy was massively helpful.
Having personally been on the squad that lost the play off two years ago it’s great to see how well the team has continued on together, where other teams have folded in the past, how much new blood has entered the team but also how hard some of the old players have worked to retain their places. With a team young and old, new and experienced the squad is at its highest ever standard since I joined 7 years ago. The commitment and care shown by everyone this season has been outstanding and our sponsors like Lucy Bee have been a massive part of that.
Bring on Thurrock!
Firwood Waterloo Ladies
Follow the team's progress on twitter https://twitter.com/WaterlooLadies
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