Group 19 rugby league: Kate McCulloch takes up a coaching role

You would be hard-pressed to find a more passionate person about women’s rugby league than Kate McCulloch. 

McCulloch has been a driving force in getting women’s tackle competitions within the local region up and running so it is only fitting she was appointed the Group 19 representative team’s coach.

After spending her teenage years on the hockey field and earning a call-up for the NSW Arrows, McCulloch decided to try out rugby league. 

She signed up to play in the Sydney competition with the Windsor Wolves and was hooked from there. 

“It was all relatively new and I realised what a big disadvantage it was to start playing at such a late age,” she said. 

“Not only is it harder to learn proper techniques but I found that coaches assumed we already knew the basics so overlooked it when coaching us.

“I wished there had been opportunities for me to play growing up in Armidale and immediately new I wanted to be involved in growing the game in country NSW.”

Since returning to Armidale in 2010, McCulloch has been a key figure in the Armidale Rams. 

She captain-coached the team to within one game of a grand final in 2016 and has dominated on Group best and fairest tables in her time playing. 

Earlier this year, Country Rugby League announced a change in the structure of their representative program with a 13-a-side tackle team to play in the Championships alongside the under 23’s men’s team. 

McCulloch’s side will take on Group 4 and Group 21 at next year’s Greater Northern Championships with the hope of earning further representative honours. 

“The CRL women’s championships are a chance for us to send a message to the CRL and NSWRL that women’s Rugby league has a place in Country NSW,” she said. 

“Not only that, I really hope the girls see this opportunity and grab it with both hands and give it everything they’ve got.

“This is a pathway to bigger and greater things and if they really want it and are willing to work for it then nothing is stopping them from one day representing their state or even Australia.”

While she has plenty of experience at the sport, McCulloch will hang up the boots to focus on coaching the Group 19 side. 

“I want to help girls develop their skills and understanding of the game, and give them the opportunities that local women have not had in the past,” she said. 

“I also want to inspire other young girls to come along and try it out. This is also a chance for me to develop my own skills as a coach.

“If I can improve myself as a coach then I can have a greater impact on the players around me.”

The three-week Group 19 women’s nines tournament, which wraps up this Saturday, has acted as a selection trial for the representative team.

McCulloch said she has been impressed by the talent on display in this year’s competition but it is not all about skill. 

“I’ve spoken to the other selectors about naming a squad rather than a team,” she said. 

“Apart from the obvious things such as ball skills, ability to read the play in attack and defence, and fitness, I will also be looking for girls with the right attitude and mental toughness, and girls who are coachable-girls who I can see really want to be there.”

McCulloch wants to create a strong team environment and to grow the sport. 

“Really good question because skill-wise, most of the girls we have identified so far for the squad would easily outperform me on the field with their ball skills, kicking and tackling skills (just to name a few),” she said. 

“So what I am hoping to do is take this talented group of individual players and gel them together as a team – get them working as a unit so that on the field everyone knows what their job is and how to do it efficiently and effectively.

“There are technical aspects I also want to work on- from catching and passing, tackling, to running lines and decision making around the ruck, as well as defensive and attacking structures.”

This story McCulloch appointed Group 19 representative women’s tackle coach first appeared on The Armidale Express.