Erin Blackwell is a rugby league player.
For five years she’s played for the Helensburgh Tiger Lillies in the Women in Defence League, and the season is about to kick off again in 2016.
Having taken the premiership every year since the competition began, the girls lost to Corrimal in last year’s Grand Final, so they’re pretty keen to get out there and take back the title in 2016. (You can watch highlights of that game HERE)
Five clubs will compete in this year’s comp, including newcomers Bomaderry. They play by the same rules as the men, and the games are just as intense.
Through the week, Erin is an animal attendant at Hanrob, but on winter weekends she’s a second rower or lock who means business, taking last year’s Illawarra Player of the Year award.
She says it’s her love of sport that saw her pull on a jersey when she was just 16 years old. “I’ve always been pretty physical and played a lot of sport,” she says. “I still play soccer, and I do rowing training, but I love to wrestle and I loved Oz Tag, so League seemed like the perfect option to combine those two things,” she says.
A Tigers supporter, Erin says she’d rather play footy than watch it. “You have to be fit to play Rugby League,” says Erin. “We train a couple of times a week, because when you get knocked down, you have to be able to get back up again! We started with an overall fitness program, but as we got closer to the first game, we have included more ball-handling, tackling and strategy.”
Erin says the game is tough, but despite a brief concussion in her first season, she’s managed to escape injury.
“I love playing for Helensburgh,” says Erin. “The whole club is more like a big family. Everyone supports each other. I love all the girls, the boys all support us and we love watching the boys play too.
“It would be great to be selected to play for NSW, but if I don’t it doesn’t matter because I love the game, I love the club and I love my team!”
Erin’s mum Kerrie is team manager and agrees the Helensburgh girls are tight. “Our team ranges in age from 16-29,” she says. “Kezie
Apps is a Jillaroos rep player who travels from Bega each weekend to play with our team. We have girls coming from Sutherland, Helensburgh and Wollongong to train and play, and this year we are keen to take the premiership!
If you’d like to get out and watch the Tiger Lillies in action- check out the draw HERE
First game of the season is Saturday April 9, Zeims park at 2pm.
Photo:- Erin (left) and teammate Georgie Brooker (right)