14 July 2023

Soward's playing days are over but he's still aiming for premiership glory

| Graeme Burrill
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Coach Jamie Soward watches players train.

Coach Jamie Soward keeping a close eye on his NRLW team at training. Photos: St George Illawarra Dragons.

As a father to two young daughters, former St George Illawarra Dragons star Jamie Soward is passionate about women’s rugby league.

A member of the Dragons’ NRL premiership winning team in 2010, Soward had always considered a move into coaching after his playing days ended, but he wasn’t expecting an offer to coach the Dragons’ women’s team last year.

“I wanted to have my kids a little bit older and experience that, but the club approached me about getting involved with the women’s game and having two young daughters, I was very passionate about it already,” he told Region.

“I was so excited. I didn’t think I’d get my own team. I’d never coached my own team before, although I’d been part of teams here and there, like local teams. But getting that opportunity to have your own team is pretty cool.”

With the new NRLW season starting later this month, Soward said he had learnt much from his first year as a coach.

“Last year I was sort of (not winging it) but very new to it all about how much I had to plan, whereas this year, I feel like I’m more prepared,” he said.

“The way that the girls prepare, last year was very fast and short turnarounds. This year I’m more prepared with what my vision is in attack, what my vision is in defence.”

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Soward has been involved in rugby league since he was four, playing as a junior with Canberra’s Belconnen United Sharks.

Retiring as a player at the end of the 2016 season, he then moved into media work.

It wasn’t until living back closer to the club he’d played for between 2007 and 2013 that Jamie reached out to the Dragons about helping with its kicking.

Soward is confident his women’s team this year will be competitive, despite four new teams joining the competition – the Cronulla Sharks, Canberra Raiders, North Queensland Cowboys and Wests Tigers. This year’s competition will also include more games.

For the Dragons, their first match will be against reigning NRLW Premiers, the Newcastle Knights on Saturday 22 July.

“We’ve signed 24 girls that want to be here,” Soward said.

“A really big coup for the club was getting Raecene McGregor and (Kiwi Rugby Sevens star) Tyla Nathan-Wong. We essentially have two of the best in their positions.”

Bobbi Law is one of the new recruits that Jamie has brought in this season and she said the team had a pretty big preseason.

Dragons women's rugby league team at training.

The team has recruited strongly this year and is looking forward to the season’s first game on 22 July.

“We’re training four days a week, it’s been physical,” she said.

“We’re trying to get our bodies right for the upcoming season but it’s all paying off now.”

Joining from Newcastle, Bobbi said she was enjoying being a part of the NRLW competition.

“It’s awesome to see it grow each year. We’re a little bit more professional and it’s just awesome to see the direction women’s rugby league is growing. All the way from grassroots now to the NRLW there’s a clear pathway.”

And how does she rate Jamie Soward as her coach?

“He’s a legend. He’s really taken me under his wing. He’s family to me now,” she said.

“I’m going to do everything I can to make him proud, make this team proud, and this community proud.”

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And while there are still a couple of weeks to go until kickoff, there’s more work to be done and in footy, there’s no such thing as a typical week.

“There’s no typical week, there’s a lot of hours as a coach and there’s a lot more people that work behind the scenes,” Soward said.

“You never really switch off as a coach; you’re always worrying. It’s a new squad, we’re looking at combinations.

“Sometimes you go home and probably think the session was worse than what it was and you look back at it on tape. So, we review every training session, review every game. It’s not just turn up, train and go home.

“It’s a great place to work. I’ve got some really cool friends and people that work here. I love it.”

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