Darrin Borthwick will coach the Canberra Raiders NRLW side in 2024 and is looking to build on the club’s inaugural season and take the Green Machine to the finals. Image – Canberra Raiders.
Respected Rugby League coach Darrin Borthwick will lead the Canberra Raiders NRL Women’s team in 2024 after helping the Green Machine to a respectable fifth place finish in their inaugural season. Borthwick was nominated as NRLW coach of the year, but that gong went to the Gold Coast’s Karyn Murphy. Still, Borthwick did a brilliant job, and in an exclusive interview with the Yass Valley Times, the Raiders coach discussed the season that was, the formation of his team, and what he and his players will be working on ahead of their 2024 campaign.
“It was good to start off the inaugural Raiders team and build something from scratch,” Borthwick said.
“It was difficult because when we were trying to find players, we spoke to them before everything was official, but we couldn’t formerly offer them anything, so there was that to work around.
“When we got the okay, we started with a blank canvas and ended up with the team we did. “It took a lot of hard work from everyone in the club, and I couldn’t be happier with the group of girls we ended up with.” The Raiders were in the NRLW top four for a good chunk of the season, but three losses in their final four games to the Broncos, Knights, and Titans cost them the chance to play finals, and Borthwick admitted it was a disappointing end to their campaign.
“If you put down on paper at the beginning of the season that we would have five wins, I probably would have been happy,” Borthwick said.
“Still, we started well, and we had the chance to play finals, and it was definitely disappointing to miss out, especially after the position we got ourselves in.
“Internally, our goal was to make the top four; we’ve had some internal reviews already and spoken to a lot of the players, and we’ll go through a formal process with them. “The emphasis is on our players and staff buying into what we are creating and the need to make sure everyone is on the same page with processes.
“While we know it was a good season, internally, we weren’t happy with the finish and missing finals, and we are definitely looking towards next year and building on what we have done this year.
“The foundation is there, and now it is about putting those consistent performances in each week and finding a way to lift each time we go out onto the field.” While it wasn’t the finish the Raiders wanted, Borthwick’s side still played some good Rugby League, and following an opening-round loss against Cronulla, they landed four straight wins against the Roosters, Tigers, Dragons, and Parramatta. It was evident by their style of player and commitment to the cause that Borthwick and his staff put a lot of time and effort into selecting the right players in the inaugural Raiders squad. “Having worked at a couple of the inaugural clubs before, I had an idea of the type of players I wanted,” Borthwick said. “We wanted to build that foundation of a good culture first and foremost.
“We made sure we spoke to every player two or three times and that the DNA was there and that the girls were going to represent the club and themselves in the best way they could.
“During the process of recruiting our players, we wanted to make sure they were a good person first and a good fit, as we knew we could work on the playing side later on, and that seemed to work.
“Being where we are, it’s not easy attracting players to come down and play, so we took a holistic approach and attempted to get our culture right and create a respectful environment that players want to be a part of, and I believe that will have us in good stead heading into future seasons. While there is a big focus on the Raiders women and who will turn out for the Green Machine in 2024, Borthwick was just as interested in current and future pathways as he looks to tap into the region’s talent.
“We’ve had formal talks with NSWRL and asked how the state comps are going to be structured,” Borthwick said. “A lot of regional girls we had in the system were local girls, and they are interested in playing in the Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership, and we see that as part of our process.
“Still, we’re waiting for news on that, and we’ll keep talking to the NSWRL and players because we want them going back home and playing the best footy they can so they can continue to improve before next season.
“There will be a big emphasis on the KFS (Katrina Fanning Shield) and building up teams and players, and we’d like to see more pathways in the Riverina as the region has an untapped ability that the Raiders will need to call on if we are to be an NRLW powerhouse.
The Raiders will kick off their NRLW season with a trip to Campbelltown to meet the Tigers in July before they enjoy back to back home games against the Knights and Sharks. Both of those teams will ask plenty of questions, but after winning their first three games at home last season, Canberra will be hoping to open their season in a similar fashion. Still, Borthwick, his staff, and the squad have a big pre season ahead of them, and the Yass Valley Times will continue to keep readers up to date with all things Raiders.
Raiders 2024 NRLW draw
Round 1 v Wests Tigers (A) – 28/7/24
Round 2 v Knights (H) – 3/8/24
Round 3 v Sharks (H) – 10-8/24
Round 4 v Broncos (A) – 17/8/24
Round 5 v Cowboys (H) – 24-8-24
Round 6 v Roosters (A) – 1/9/24
Round 7 v Dragons (A) – 7/9/24
Round 8 v Eels (H) – 15/9/24
Round 9 v Titans (H) – 22/9/24