NRLW PREMIERHSIP RD 1: SYDNEY ROOSTERS v NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS – 3.05pm AEST/5.05pm NZT, Saturday, September 8 @ ANZ Stadium
The Warriors will make history on Saturday afternoon when they take on Sydney Roosters in the first match of the inaugural NRL Women’s Premiership at ANZ Stadium.
The historic venture sees four clubs – the Warriors, Roosters, Brisbane Broncos and St George Illawarra Dragons – square off in a round-robin format as curtain-raisers the men’s NRL finals matches, before the top two sides progress to a decider played on NRL Grand Final Day.
THE @WRugbyLeague STARTS TOMORROW!!!!
— LadiesWhoLeague (@LadiesWhoLeague) September 6, 2018
Having not played competitively as teams before, all four are effectively unknown quantities. The Warriors have played two trials against Auckland selections in recent weeks, powering to an impressive 32-4 win on August 10 before being pushed in a 20-16 result a fortnight ago.
Despite several of the Kiwi Ferns’ biggest names being snapped up by the Australian clubs, including Teuila Fotu-Moala (Broncos) and Honey Hireme (Dragons), the Warriors have assembled a strong squad boasting an outstanding mix of experience, youth and game-breaking talent.
— Vodafone Warriors (@NZWarriors) September 7, 2018
The Warriors’ greatest strength looks to lie in their spine, with veteran pair Laura Mariu and Georgia Hale lining up in the halves, 2017 NZRL Women’s Player of the Year Apii Nicholls at fullback, and decade-long Ferns rep Krystal Rota at hooker.
The wily Hale – the face and voice of women’s rugby league in New Zealand for several years – has a bit of a point to prove after sensationally being left out of the Kiwi Ferns’ World Cup final squad last year.
The brilliant Nicholls is This Warriors Life’s tip to be the standout player for not only the Warriors, but of the entire NRLW Premiership.
Shontelle Woodman, a centre in the Ferns’ WRLWC final loss to the Jillaroos, is their three-quarter line gun, while Lorina Papali’i and Sarina Clark will bring a wealth of experience and class off the bench.
The sole Canterbury-based member of the squad, Sui Pauaraisa, was desperately unlucky to miss a spot in the 17 after taking player of the match honours in Linwood Keas’ epic win over Papanui Tigers in the CRL grand final.
The Roosters, who go into this clash as hot favourites, are being widely tipped as the team to beat in the NRLW – and a scan over their line-up reveals why.
Captain Simaima Taufa and Elianna Walton – who helped spearhead NSW’s Origin win at North Sydney Oval earlier this year – are in the front-row, and their match-up with Warriors props Annetta Nuuausala and Aieshaleigh Smalley could be Saturday’s most important.
Captain's Run | The Roosters Women ran through one last training session before tomorrow's historic season opener against the @NZWarriors at @ANZStadium https://t.co/UDE3yfYP5h #EastsToWin #OurWay #NRLW pic.twitter.com/mz99W9shcl
— Sydney Roosters (@sydneyroosters) September 7, 2018
Then there’s Queensland five-eighth Zahara Temara, who will provide the Roosters with another ball-playing option at lock alongside classy Blues Origin halves Lavina O’Mealey and Maddie Studdon.
Another Maroon, Karina Brown, is on the wing for the Tricolours, but the player to watch out wide is brilliant centre Isabelle Kelly, who scored two tries in both the WRLWC final last year for the Jillaroos and this year’s Origin for NSW.
— Women's Rugby League (@WRugbyLeague) September 7, 2018
"I had a number of offers on the table and I could have gone anywhere." Brisbane native Karina Brown speaks of finding a home at the Sydney Roosters https://t.co/yX3bAFCQiT #EastsToWin #OurWay pic.twitter.com/1lvb2FSrSB
— Sydney Roosters (@sydneyroosters) September 6, 2018
Nita Maynard was an interchange for the Kiwi Ferns in the World Cup final but played for NSW this year and was snapped up by the Roosters. She’ll come off the pine against seven of her NZ compatriots from that 2017 decider.
A total of six members of the victorious Jillaroos World Cup final squad will play against the Warriors, with Australian great Ruan Sims ruled out with a hamstring complaint.
If the Warriors can match the Roosters up front they are every chance of pulling off an upset, but it shapes as a titanic battle to kick off one of the finest, most progressive and hotly anticipated innovations our game has witnessed in decades.