WELCOME CALL: Monique Christie-Johnston was a last minute addition to the Western Rams league tag squad on Monday. 091414zgirlsaction1LEAGUE TAG

BATHURST Panthers player Monique Christie-Johnston felt she was in the mix to make the Western Rams side after the trials in Gilgandra recently but wasn’t surprised when she missed out on the initial squad.

By her estimation, most of the players in her area of the field – the middle – held their own at the cluster, but on Monday night coach Mick Armstrong gave her an important phone call ahead of the first round of the Country Championships this weekend.

She will now join clubmates Matilda Power and Claire Woolmington, as well as St Pat’s pair Karah Armstrong and Mish Somers, in the Rams squad.

“I was actually only called up this week, Shay Naden from Gilgandra withdrew from the side, so I was the lucky one who took her place,” said Christie-Johnston, a title-winning captain in Group 10 with Panthers.

“It was pretty tough competition over there at the trials, I was playing in the forwards and it was a position where basically everyone in the four teams there did their job so it was hard to stand out.

“After getting asked to play I was very happy to put my hand up and get involved, I know a lot of the Group 10 girls, I know it is a strong squad and after speaking with a couple of my Panthers team-mates in the squad they told me that the whole training process has been a really positive one.”

The two players she referred to are Woolmington and Power, two of the younger Panthers players but also two of their stand-out talents.

Seeing their progress in itself has been satisfying for Christie-Johnston.

“Definitely, I’m very proud of how much both of them have developed,” she said.

“They were both fantastic in Gilgandra and fully deserved their spots. I would have been incredibly surprised if they weren’t picked, to be honest.

“It really is amazing just how much the whole standard of the sport and the Group 10 competition has improved in a relatively short time. When it started we basically hadn’t played at all before but the quality has grown so much each year. It was a big learning curve but the results are there to see each week.”

The Rams will face Southern on Saturday at Kirkham Oval in Elderslie and, though this might be the first chance any players have been given to play for a Country Championship in league tag, the Rams players aren’t going in totally blind.

“I think Kiama are part of the Southern area, and I know that they have won the premier’s competition for the last two years that all the Group winners go to. We [Panthers] there competed there two seasons ago and St Pat’s did last season,” Christie-Johnston said.

“On that basis I would think they are going to be pretty strong.

“I think to take out the whole tournament in its first edition would be incredible but I’m just hoping that we can get a win to start with in that first game and then maybe re-adjust our sights a bit.”

WESTERN RAMS: 1 Heidi Reagan, 2 Tarlee Roberts, 3 Olivia Bird, 4 Sophie Stammers, 5 Claire Woolmington, 6 Mish Somers, 7 Matilda Power, 8 Chrystal Thompson, 9 Ella J Harris, 10 Mikala Mongan, 11 Sally Dwyer, 12 Karah Armstrong, 13 Rikka Lane-Lamb, 14 Tori Canham, 15 Monique Christie-Johnson

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