A self-titled ‘big sister’ amongst the playing group, Madison Bartlett is not surprised to see the Raiders pushing for a place in the finals, despite it being their first season together in the NRLW.
One of the four expansion clubs entered into the competition this year, Canberra stunned early, winning four of their opening five games to set them up with a chance to play on past Round 9, with this week’s game against the Titans shaping as a must-win encounter for both teams.
Bartlett credited the bond formed in the pre-season with creating a close-knit group who had been able to find their combinations early.
“I think that people wrote us off from the start, but it didn't really matter to us. We know what we have in our team and … it's always been about focusing on us,” Bartlett said.
“We've got a great coach and they really look after us down there.
Match: Raiders v Titans
Round 9 -
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra
We're lucky that (the last game is) at home for us, we love our crowd and we love our support that we get from those guys in our community.
“I know the girls love the Viking clap and we're looking forward to that, it's going to be a big clash.
“We're so lucky that we have each other down there. We continue to do things together and I think that's helping our bond and it is really showing on the field.”
Bartlett has played a big part of helping that bond come together, with her involvement with the team’s “sounding board group”; a mix of new and experienced players assembled by the coaches to encourage open communication.
“I'm not the eldest in the group, but I've been there and done that, so ... I know what it's like for the young girls who have moved out of home for the first time,” Bartlett said of her role in the group.
“Those are big things if you've moved away from family for the first time and I know what that feels like. I don't have family over here, so I know what it's like to miss your family.
“Or training can be tough sometimes, and it's just nice for players to feel like they can come to someone if they need to.
“I don't like to say (I am a) mother figure – I'm not that old – but a big sister.
“We have girls over for dinner and stuff like that and it's just making sure the young girls do feel comfortable if there are things going on, on the field, off the field, anything like that.”
Having made her NRLW debut in 2019 with the Warriors before stints with the Dragons and the Titans, Bartlett has featured in 24 games and has sacrificed plenty over the years to play.
A Kiwi international, Bartlett has scored 17 NRLW tries, currently the second most in competition history, but the fact she has been able to excel in such a tough competition is remarkable, given the fact she endured 16 shoulder dislocations in her playing career.
Taking time off from the game in 2018 to get operations on both shoulders, Bartlett said it “was tough” to overcome and at one stage questioned if she wanted to play anymore.
Madison Bartlett Try
“It was in 2018 when I had the year off. I had had 16 shoulder dislocations, which is a lot,” Bartlett said.
“It was just constant. I could put them back in myself and it got to the point where it was just frustrating.
“That was the World Cup year, 2017 (that they were getting worse) … I got dropped (from the Kiwi Ferns squad) a couple of weeks beforehand, in the last cut before World Cup.
“Obviously it was heartbreaking, but I always think things happen for a reason and it definitely was a blessing in disguise.
“I straight away got surgery, I did one then the other and had the year off and touch wood, everything's been good since.
“It was probably the best thing that happened.
“It was hard; I was questioning if I want to play anymore, what I wanted to do, if I'd had enough (but) I decided to carry on.
“And then after that, the next season, I debuted for the Kiwis, so it made it worth it and obviously, we had World Cup at the end of last year, which was a big goal.
“At the time, it was hard to stay motivated … my parents multiple times asked ‘are you just going to stop?’ And I wanted to, but then I didn't want to; I'm very much if I want to do something, I won't stop until it's happened, and that was playing World Cup.
“So to make World Cup at the end of last year was a big thing. Not just playing for your country, but knowing how hard it was to actually get there, I think was pretty cool.
“Hopefully it inspires someone to know that it's not all like sunshine and roses and it is hard; it wasn't easy, but I'm glad that I did it and I'm glad that I kept playing.”