The 2023 Australian Rugby Shield marks South Australia’s most successful to date with both Black Falcons squads registering wins at Ballymore.
The women’s side finished their campaign with a 15-14 victory over QLD Suburban – their first ever ARS win – as Zahn Anthony, Caitlan Stanley and Naomi Caucau crossed to etch their names in South Australian rugby history.
Captain Ana Ikahihifo described her team’s win as “awesome” and highlighted the representative squad’s improvement since 2022.
“It was awesome – we had a slow start this year but we’ve got a lot of inexperience in the side so we knew we’d have to overcome that and we knew the win was going to come.
“That was a tough contest against QLD Suburban – they’re a tough opponent so we’re just rapt to get the win – and I know a few girls were having panic attacks out there at the end trying to get the ball out.
“But that’s just down to experience and development. We’ve come a long way and really backed each in these last three months and since the last ARS.
“I'm so proud of this group of girls, they have talent and they’ve got gifts and it’s exciting to see where SA rugby can go.”
Meanwhile, men’s assistant coach Liam Smith was positive about the side’s campaign after an opening round win over Tasmania and three close calls against NSW Country, Perth Gold and Victoria’s Axemen.
“It was a tough week, lots of big games and lots of narrow losses so that’s tough to look back on those missed opportunities,” Smith said.
“I think we just had to ride the wave Victoria were bringing in that final game (won 40-29 by the Axemen) and we didn’t quite have the legs at the end.”
“But we’re really proud of this week - we know where we’re going as a team and we’re trying to make ARS an attractive place to come for SA players, so hopefully this becomes a platform for others to go have a crack again next year.”