This weekend the Newcastle Knights have a massive billing at Maitland Sportsground, where a max-capacity crowd will watch the first grade team run out against the Parramatta Eels.
Before the trial match for the NRL however, a host of representative matches will be played as curtain-raisers, and none are more excited than the Tarsha Gale Cup squad.
The women’s under 18s nines team have played two games so far in their national league, last week falling in a mixed performance to the West Tigers after opening their season with a 54-10 rout against the St George Dragons.
Now they face the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in what can only be described as a “festival atmosphere”, and it’s something head coach Josh Potapczyk believes the girls are “already looking forward to the home crowd”.
“It’s a real opportunity for people who aren’t aware of the Tarsha Gale Cup to see the girls and see how exciting the team is,” he said.
“We had a lot of people that saw coverage on social media and in the news and said to us ‘if we’d known it was on we would have come to Dudley’ and so we’re just pushing more fans to come and support the girls, great crowds are always welcome.”
While the crowd will certainly have a major impact on the morale of the team, Potapczyk pointed to unforced errors and handling errors when in attack when speaking about the defeat last weekend.
“The girls just put a lot of pressure on themselves with dropped balls, and so they just got worn down as they were constantly on the back foot,” he said. “We worked on that in training specifically and we’re a lot more confident of keeping the pace going.”
“[In Dudley] we held a lot of the footy and were able to dictate how the game played out – we had a lot of control. When we were dropping the footy we just never had our hands on it and it meant we didn’t get into the game until very late.”
The Knights fell 46-28 at Leichhardt Oval, but their haul of the points all came in the final quarter of the match, which is a promising side the head coach side.
“Once we got the errors out of the game we piled on more than 26 points in just a single quarter, so we know we’re capable of getting on the attack,” Potapczyk said. “Losing against the Bulldogs was a way of seeing where we were coming unstuck.”
“We’ll be improved this weekend, the girls are looking forward to it.”
A final boost for the team comes in the form of a number of key players returning to the side after small injuries and absences kept them from the match in Leichhardt.
The team’s hooker and 5/8, Tasman Luschwitz and Olivia Glanville respectively, both return to the squad and Potapczyk knows their return will be nothing but a benefit for the desired outcome.
“They are both crucial players, we missed them last week like you’d miss any great performers,” he said.
“They bring more vocal calls into the middle of the team, and both of them have the talent to control the game. We’re pretty positive all the things we’ve worked on mid-week, and their return, mean we can grab a good result in front of the massive home crowd and put on a good show.”