Hunter trio to lead NSW Waratahs' Super W defence

KEY: Katrina Barker is part of the NSW Waratahs leadership group for the Super W season.
KEY: Katrina Barker is part of the NSW Waratahs leadership group for the Super W season.

REFRESHED after an "overdue break", Katrina Barker is keen to rip in to her new role in the leadership group with the NSW Waratahs.

As expected Barker and Nelson Bay winger Maya Stewart maintained their place in the squad after helping the Tahs to a second straight Super W title.

They are joined by Randwick-based Novocastrian Layne Morgan, who is one of two halfbacks in the squad.

Twins Nicole and Leilani Nathan missed selection in the final 30 but have been selected as development players and will continue to train with squad.

Campbell Aitkin, who was the backs coach this year, takes over as head coach after the departure of Matt Evrard and has included Barker in the leadership group alongside Grace Hamilton, Emily Robinson and Iliseva Batibasaga.

"It is nice to be included in the leadership group," Barker said. "It shows that I'm valued. There are two forwards and two backs and we are the voice of the players to the coaching staff. We have a meeting every Tuesday afternoon before training and discuss any issues and target things that we want to work on."

Barker played fly-half for NSW Country at the Chikarovski Cup, which doubled as a selection trial, but has her eye on retaining the No.12 jumper for the Tahs.

"I decided not to play sevens (AON series) this year," Barker said. "I needed a break and wanted to finish my carpentry apprenticeship. I did that in November. I have been working on improving my speed and strength with Brayden Mellon.

"I'm not going to be able to get too big. Last year I didn't do much gym before the start of Super W - one session a week which is pretty pathetic. I will increase my gym work and do my recovery properly and get stronger and faster."

Stewart, 19, is in her second year with the Waratahs and is fresh from a starring role for Australia A at the Oceania Championships, highlighted by scoring four tries in a win over Samoa.

"This year I played a bit safe," she said. "Just to get on the paddock in the Super W was great for me. Next year I will definitely look to take more risks. I will have a lot more confidence having played for Australia A and learning so much there. That season with the Waratahs really helped.

"For Australia A, I backed myself and got early ball. Even just knowing my role - where I'm meant to be and why I am doing it and not doubting myself. That all helped."

Barker and Stewart, who play club rugby in Newcastle for the Waratahs, commute for training four times a week. However, Stewart plans to relocate to Sydney and will "move down there as soon as I can".

The Waratahs resume training on January 6 and have a trial against the Brumbies before the Super W season kicks off in February.

This story Barker in leadership role at Waratahs first appeared on Newcastle Herald.