In the grand scheme of things, Raiders women’s coach Darrin Borthwick has done a remarkable job building a team for the 2023 NRLW season.
As one of four expansion teams in the NRLW this year, the Raiders team has been established from scratch.
In March, the Raiders had yet to sign a single player for the upcoming season before the recruitment of Parramatta skipper and international Simaima Taufa.
Since then, another 27 players have been signed, four of whom are on development contracts.
A few have never played rugby league before. Three have come across from rugby union. This is possible because the Super W and the NRLW don’t overlap in timeframes.
The Raiders also signed the first English player to the NRLW – Hollie-Mae Dodd.
Darrin has just a seven-week lead-in with the 28-person-strong squad before the first game. But his experience has helped. He was involved in women’s rugby league with the Mounties and Parramatta.
“A lot of the girls I had worked with before,” said Darrin.
“I understood the type of players I wanted at the club. It was more than playing ability. Their values were as equally important.”
Darrin also wanted to emphasise to the playing group the due diligence he went through before accepting an offer to coach the side.
“When I spoke to the girls, I told them that before I signed them, I wanted to make sure the club would be putting everything into it. And the club has been totally committed from day one. Don Furner has been a great support and I relayed that to the girls.”
Darrin has plenty of talent at his disposal, including women’s rugby international Grace Kemp, who has come across on agreement from the Brumbies.
“Grace is going really well. Not every player playing rugby is suited to league. But some of the things she was doing well in rugby suit rugby league as well.”
But no matter their playing ability, Darrin has gone out of his way to implore the requirement for the players to be significant role models in the Canberra region.
“I spoke to the girls about the importance of results on the field but it’s equally important how we represent the Canberra region and inspire young girls. Our wins will be judged off the field as well.”
The long-term goal of the Raiders NRLW, of course, is to one day have a team made up predominantly of local players.
“We have 12 local players in the squad. In five to 10 years, it would be great to have 90 per cent of the playing group coming from the local region,” says Darrin.
It’s a groundbreaking moment for women’s sport, not just for rugby league in Canberra.
The Raiders women’s side play their first game in the NRLW on 29 July against the Roosters at GIO as a doubleheader. The Raiders take on the Knights in the NRL immediately after the NRLW game.