Bathurst Panthers league tag stalwart Monique Christie-Johnston farewells Group 10

TAG STAR: Since taking up league tag, Monique Christie-Johnston impressed with Bathurst Panthers, Group 10 and the Western Rams.
TAG STAR: Since taking up league tag, Monique Christie-Johnston impressed with Bathurst Panthers, Group 10 and the Western Rams.

WHEN Bathurst Panthers played its inaugural game in the Group 10 league tag competition in 2012, it was Oberon's Monique Christie-Johnston who led the side onto the field as captain.

In the seven years which followed the five-eighth was involved in a whole host of Panthers highlights - including back-to-back premierships - which is why the news she is leaving the club was hard for her to break and her team-mates to take.

At the end of January she will move to Brisbane, having found work teaching at a school in South Bank.

"It's definitely a hard decision to leave that behind, but with family still around and friends and family still playing, I will definitely still be back to watch. It will probably suck more watching it," Christie-Johnston laughed.

"It's a bit of mixed emotions, but it's very exciting.

"It will be a massive lifestyle change, but I think it will be fantastic too. We are used to the snow in Oberon, so I'm not too sure how I'll go, but I think the snow coats will definitely be staying here with Mum.

"I will be in the Facebook group keeping up with what they're doing and having some banter in there, but it will be different."

Christie-Johnston came to the sport via touch football, her play-making skills for the Oberon team making her a natural selection when Panthers were searching for league tag players.

Initially the league tag games were only played sporadically and involved two or three clubs. But by the time Group 10 introduced an official premiership in 2012, Christie-Johnston was hooked.

She is delighted to see how many other females have discovered that same passion for league tag in the ensuing years.

"It was more of kick around back then when I first started, it wasn't that serious. I remember Amy and Jess [Hotham] asking me if I'd play and I said I'd play a couple of games here and there and even then I was like if I had something else on, it was't a priority," Christie-Johnston said.

"But after that developing year and it became like a proper competition, I loved it so much.

"It's grown so much, it was only four of five teams when it began, going to every club having a team and now every club having an under 18s team nearly. The junior is kicking off as well, which is awesome. I know Panthers didn't have any last year but they are trying to get the under 11s happening next year.

"So it's really growing and it's awesome that it is. I think it will just keep on going and that's very exciting for league tag."

PROUD MOMENT: Monique Christie-Johnston skippered Panthers to an undefeated premiership in 2013.

PROUD MOMENT: Monique Christie-Johnston skippered Panthers to an undefeated premiership in 2013.

Panthers made the inaugural league tag grand final - Christie-Johnston scoring a preliminary major semi-final hat-trick to help them advance - but it was St Pat's who claimed the spoils.

However, Panthers then charged through 2013 undefeated to win their maiden premiership then backed it up again the following season to be the first Group 10 league tag side to claim dual titles.

Having skippered the side in both, those wins rank as two of Christie-Johnston's highlights.

"I think the main one which stands out is probably our first win, it was CYMS 20-0. It was one that we really worked so hard for, so it was the best. It reckon that was the most awesome one of all, it was a great bunch of girls," she said.

"I remember on mad Monday we just kept singing '20-nil'. So that memory is definitely one which stuck.

"Then the year after when we beat Pat's - to go back-to-back that was another highlight. Because it was Pat's, that just added that extra kick to it."

I remember on mad Monday we just kept singing '20-nil'. So that memory is definitely one which stuck.

Monique Christie-Johnston

In 2017 she stepped up to not only be captain of the Panthers' league tag side, but coach as well. She thrived with the added responsibility and picked up the best and fairest gong for her club.

Christie-Johnston's efforts for Panthers also led her to higher representative honours.

She competed in the inaugural Country Rugby League League Tag Country Championships in 2016 for Western Division and the following year was given the honour of skippering the Rams.

She led that side to second place in the championships.

Then in 2018 the talented play maker not only added another Group 10 selection to her resume, but was captain-coach of the outfit which beat Group 11 8-4 in the decider to make it six Western Division cluster crowns in a row.

But rather than the on-field success with those representative teams, it is the friendships she built with players from across the region Christie-Johnston treasures most.

"It was really great captaining the Rams, it was awesome to play with the those Group 11 girls. Getting to play and learn from different girls, and coaches as well, was great," she said.

"I think it's the friendships you build. As much as we talk about the rivalry with Pat's a lot of my great mates play for Pat's and it's always nice to have a laugh and giggle with them out on the field when we played together in Group sides."

As for whether or not she plans to continue playing after relocating to Brisbane, it is no great surprise to hear that Christie-Johnston has already explored her options.

"I think it's more the tackle side of things up there, so I'm looking to play oz tag and touch, be involved more on the social side," she said.

"This old body gets a bit sore just playing league tag, so I don't think I'll be doing the tackle side of things up there."