Piper Rankmore capped off a stellar season with the Gunnedah Bulldogs Rugby League Club with six awards at the 2023 season presentation.

The ladies league tag player snared awards for the club’s best player, highest points scorer, women’s player of the year, women’s player’s player, women’s best attacker and was joint winner of the club’s highest try scorer.

Bulldogs club president David McCann said Piper was a standout performer in many respects.

“She is fit, strong, fast and has good ball skills … dominant throughout the year,” he said.

The side was led by second-year captain-coach Jacqui Jones, who also claimed dual honours alongside Piper as the club’s highest try scorer.

Jones’ squad earned a semi-final appearance against Dungowan but lost the contest 18-14.

Despite the defeat, the Bulldogs women won the admiration of many this season for strong showings against “red-hot” Tamworth area teams.

“They did really well,” McCann said.

In reserve grade, Gunnedah showed potential of delivering good results this year but failed to capitalise on its opportunities.

“They probably underachieved,” McCann said.

“Should have had better results than they did.

“Nearly every side they played, they were in front [at one stage].

“But they were probably lacking some discipline in sticking with things that were working for them.”

Tyrone Rankmore delivered an all-round dominant performance and was by far his side’s best this season, taking out the reserve grade’s player of the year honours.

Sibling to sister Piper, Tyrone also collected the player’s player, best forward and club sportsman award.

The Bulldogs first grade side struggled all season and managed just one win from 14 matches.

Despite the difficult year results-wise, McCann said there was hope yet with a core group of juniors rising through club ranks.

“We won under 18s last year and a couple of those players played in first grade this year,” he said.

“They will improve with time but it’s a big step.”

A big part of their downfall was the absence of seasoned footballers to maintain the integrity of the team.

“It’s not so much the youth but the experience,” he said.

McCann said first grade’s forward pack held its own but the backline was without several key players this year including Aaron Donnelly and Mitch Fletcher.

A standout was captain Lincon Smith, who despite only aged in his early 20s, was considered one of the experienced campaigners for the Bulldogs top grade this season.

“He showed a lot of maturity,” McCann said.

“Whenever things were going bad, he steadied the ship.

“It’s not an easy role, especially from the front row.”

Smith also won several awards at the season presentation including first grade’s player of the year and player’s player as well as the club’s best forward.

Meanwhile the Bulldogs under 18s endured a rebuilding year of sorts this season off the back of its 2022 premiership win.

“They lost a lot of players … had about five from last year,” McCann said.

Despite their depleted ranks, the side performed strongly, again against high-calibre opposition.

“They did very well, narrowly missed the semi-finals,” he said.

McCann made special mention of a match the Bulldogs’ played against a home-town Moree outfit where they won 28-24.

“They really stuck to their guns against a good team,” he said.

He also gave thanks to outgoing Bulldogs coach Mick Schmiedel who had the unenviable task of guiding the club through the disrupted few years before and after COVID.

The Tamworth-based Bulldogs coach took the reins of the club at the start of the 2020 season. The club played just one trial match before lockdowns ended play for that year. Play resumed the following season albeit tentatively, but the damage was done and the side never recovered.

“I don’t think we came back from that,” McCann said.

The club president said no coaching role is easy and Schmiedel’s contribution to the club was recognised.

“I want to thank Mick for his time over the last four years,” he said.

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