BEING A women’s rugby team in Newcastle’s football hotbed requires a special resilience. And when Novocastrians Ladies lost several key figures in pre-season – some to the baby boom, others, like England A’s Emily Braund, to a distant job – that roll-your-sleeves-up doggedness was needed to save the club.

Fears that they’d be unable to field a side were allayed by a recruitment drive that included new links with Newcastle University. With new coaches Chris Fife and David Addison at her side, skipper Janette Shaw – the England Women team manager – vowed not only to find fresh talent but to power the ‘Panthers’ towards a third promotion in four years.

It is, almost, mission accomplished. They ended February with seven straight wins in RFUW Championship North Two, their chief rivals, Morpeth, having yielded 34-0 when the sides met in October. A points tally of 157-3 emphasises the impact made by a dominant pack and veteran back-line (average age mid-30s) that features the discovery of the season in ex-footballer Helen Kane, an impenetrable last line of defence. “She’s a police officer so isn’t scared of anyone,” says lock and club nominator Andrea Lee. Kate Disley, an eight/nine, has also been a revelation.

And what of those three leaked points, a penalty v Fleetwood? “That was our prop, Alice Workman. She wanted a breather and lay all over the ball. We fine her every week for it!”

Training attracts turnouts of 30-plus, match days bring an expectant buzz, and there have been car washes and home-made cupcakes galore as people pitch in to raise funds for the finale at Isle of Man side Vagabonds.

Canterbury Kitbags

A keener bunch we can’t imagine. The Panthers are our Team of the Month and win 22 Canterbury kitbags.

We’re after a March Team of the Month, an award for junior clubs in Europe. To enter, email alan_pearey @ipcmedia.com.

Check out April 2011′s Team of the Month

This article appeared in the May 2011 issue of Rugby World Magazine. To find a newsagent which sells Rugby World in UK visit http://www.ipcmedia.com/availability/index.php?code=rugby

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