Newcastle Knights' debut Tarsha Gale Cup squad gunning for semi-final berth to prove their talent

AIM HIGH: The Newcastle Knights are gunning for the semi-finals in the Tarsha Gale Cup, coach Josh Potapczyk revealed. Picture: Valentine Sports Photography
AIM HIGH: The Newcastle Knights are gunning for the semi-finals in the Tarsha Gale Cup, coach Josh Potapczyk revealed. Picture: Valentine Sports Photography

The first ball of the regular season has yet to be kicked, but the Newcastle Knights’ head coach Josh Potapczyk is confident of a finals run.

The Novocastrian rugby league club is taking its first steps in the Tarsha Gale Cup – the national women’s under-18s nines competition – with a team brimming with local talents.

“We have set out expectations at making it into the semi-finals this season, we think that’s a reasonable goal to have,” Potapczyk said. “From there it’s anyone’s game.”

“Most of the team is made up of girls that impressed in the Central Coast-Hunter Women’s Nines tournament, it’s got that local flair.”

The squad has run out twice so far this year, downing the Canberra Raiders and losing to the reigning champions in the Penrith Panthers.

“Both trials were fantastic, they might not have both been the results we wanted but there were a lot of positives from both,” Potapczyk said. “It was good to see how we shaped up to a competition powerhouse in the Panthers, regardless of the loss.”

VETERANS: Sophie Buller (left) and Ngalika Barker are stalwarts of the Tarsha Gale Cup, with Buller captaining the Knights in their first season in the under-18 competition.

VETERANS: Sophie Buller (left) and Ngalika Barker are stalwarts of the Tarsha Gale Cup, with Buller captaining the Knights in their first season in the under-18 competition.

The heart of the team will be captain Sophie Buller, who played with the Cronulla Sharks last season, and Potapczyk is expecting immediate impact.

“Buller is a fantastic player to have in our engine room, she’s great in attack and has a fantastic defence,” he said.

“She’s got that experience that will be key for the rest of the talented girls coming in to the new top league.”

The first match will be played at Dudley Oval on Thursday evening, kicking off at 6pm.

The Knights will look to claim their first win of the campaign towards the finals against the other debut team, the Saint George Illawarra Dragons.

Newcastle will also play home games at Maitland and Cessnock’s Sports Ground over the nine round season.