Training on hockey fields, tennis courts or indoor volleyball courts is something most members of the Illawarra Tarsha Gale Cup squad have experienced at some time or another.
At a time of NRLW expansion, there is no more pivotal competition than the state's elite women's under 19s, but it's often where the biggest gulf in high performance facilities and opportunities is found.
It's why coach Courtney Crawford feels the new Steelers Academy training base at Wollongong TAFE is a Godsend.
"It's really exciting to have our own home base," Crawford said.
"As soon as you walk in it feels like home and there's been plenty of comments early on just about how fantastic the gym facilities are for the strength and conditioning and just being able to walk straight out on the field and get your session done.
"It has had a positive impact straight away. Just to feel like they belong in that [high performance] environment and have the access to the same resources is really important because a lot of girls might lack self-confidence or really need to feel like they belong in that setting and it's definitely doing that.
"We're sharing the facility with Lisa Fiola as well so the younger girls get a little bit of a sneak peek at what's to come. It's obviously really important for those girls, not a lot of them have been exposed to a gym before so to have the facility there with everything in the one place is going to really excel their performance."
The Steelers claimed the Tarsha Gale Cup in 2019 and have been a perennial powerhouse in the competition, with the current summer training squad arguably the most talent-stacked the club's seen.
Having also retained a host of stars from the squad that made a successful finals run last season, Crawford's confidence the Steelers can again be there at the business end, and go one or two better than the grand final qualifier that proved their last outing of 2023.
"There's a lot of talent in the squad but, as I said from day one, talent means nothing if you don't work hard so we've got a lot of hard work ahead of us," Crawford said.
"It's really exciting for the Steelers pathways because 90-95 per cent of the squad has been retained or is made up of local girls. There's probably only three or four girls in that squad that haven't been a part of the pathway before so [the rest] have played a lot of footy together which we'll lean into during the season.
I've got no doubt they're going to work hard and we'll make sure we're ready to go. If one or two early results go against you, you're struggling to make finals, so it's really important that we put all the hard work in now and make sure we're ready to go round one.
"I said it last year, and I'll say it again, the top four is definitely our aim. You finish in the top four, or hopefully top two, you set yourself up with a very good chance coming into finals."
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