It may be short but the NRLW season certainly doesn’t lack anything in quality. With the season kicking off today, Ruan Sims picks the players she thinks will make the biggest mark.
CHARLOTTE CASLICK (ROOSTERS)
Caslick might be new to rugby league, but Sims is adamant she will shine for the Tricolours under new Roosters coach Jamie Feeney.
“I see Caslick as playing a running five-eighth role,” Sims said.
“I think she’ll be dynamite when she gets the ball in hand and a little bit of space.
“(Feeney) is excellent when it comes to the technical side of the game. He’s excellent with helping players build their individual skill sets and he can bring it all together with a strong game plan.”
HANNAH SOUTHWELL (ROOSTERS)
The Jillaroos lock doesn’t get much airtime, but Sims is expecting Southwell to have a massive year in the NRLW.
“I’ve tipped her as my player to watch for the series. She started as an outside back, she moved to the second row now she’s solidified herself as a ball-playing lock for the Jillaroos and NSW,” Sims said.
“Her tackle technique, it’s textbook perfect, I love watching her defend. When she gets into the line, she can put on late footwork and wrong-foot the defence.”
ELSIE ALBERT (DRAGONS)
It’s crazy to think that the PNG Orchids skipper is only 24. Already, Albert has established herself as one of rugby league’s biggest hitters and Sims can’t wait to see what she does in the NRLW.
“I’ve seen a lot of her highlights. Thankfully, I haven’t had to play against her because she hits like a freight train. I am so pumped to see her run around.”
JAIME CHAPMAN, TALEI HOLMES, ELLIE JOHNSTON (DRAGONS)
These kids at the Dragons have excited Sims for a while.
“Jaime Chapman, just ridiculous talent, she can create space for herself,” Sims said.
“Ellie Johnston is a big body, loves tough and tumble, running it up through the middle,
“Talei Holmes is fantastic, we have her playing an edge lock position, great late footwork in the line, can move defence really well, finds herself a one-on-one tackle more often than not.”
ELLIA GREEN (WARRIORS)
One of the best athletes on the World Rugby Sevens circuit, Green has scored 141 tries in 149 games for Australia. In open space, she’s been known to hit 32km/h. She arrived at the Warriors this year with her Aussie Sevens teammate Evania Pelite.
“They’re one of the most exciting combinations, Ellia Green doesn‘t even need space to be effective, give her the slightest amount of room and she’ll power through it,” Sims said.
“If players inside her create space, get her one on one with her opposition, she’d win that battle nine times out of 10.”
GEORGIA HALE (WARRIORS)
If any team is going to defy expectations, Sims expects it will be the Warriors.
“I remember in 2018 they came over to Australia to play their first NRLW game, their plane was delayed, they spent hours at the airport, went straight to the field to play and beat the Roosters,” Sims said.
“It was a star-studded squad we had at the Roosters and they came out and won that game because they were playing for each other, they play with passion,
“Georgia Hale, the captain, is normally a five eighth but now she’s in that lock role. She brings ball-playing to that position.”
JAYME FRESSARD (BRONCOS)
The outside back only missed last season after rupturing her ACL. Fressard impressed for the Central Coast Roosters this year and is determined to shine for the Broncos.
“She is phenomenal, she is so strong, good under the high ball, a good talker.” Sims said.
ALI BRIGGINSHAW (BRONCOS)
If anyone’s going to lead Brisbane to an NRLW three-peat, Sims knows that it’s Jillaroos halfback Brigginshaw.
“She has a huge influence on the team, everyone will rally around her … people enjoy playing with her,” Sims said.
Dragons rookie’s field of dreams comes to life
Jaime Chapman grew up idolising Charlotte Caslick, Jessica Sergis and Maddie Studdon.
On Saturday, the 18-year-old will play with and against her heroes when she makes her NRLW debut on the wing for St George Illawarra against Caslick’s Sydney Roosters in Canberra.
Olympic Sevens gold medallist Caslick is also making her NRLW debut and coming up against the Tricolours superstar five-eighth is a dream come true for Chapman, who is one of Australia’s most exciting prospects in both rugby league and rugby sevens.
“When I got into Burraneer Sevens, Charlotte was one of my biggest inspirations, she came to all our competitions and tournaments when I was younger,” said Chapman, who will run out alongside Sergis and Studdon for the Dragons.
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“I did a Sharks academy and Jess Sergis was there, back in 2017, she was such a big inspiration, now I get to play next to her.”
Last year, Chapman steered Australia to victory in the World Schoolgirl Sevens and was named in the team of the tournament.
She was also NSW’s fullback in the under-18 State of Origin clash and carved up for the Cronulla Sharks in NSWRL’s under-18s girls Tarsha Gale Cup.
At this stage, Chapman is set on pursuing rugby league.
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“l love both sports with a passion, but rugby league, it’s my soft spot. I’ve played it since I was a kid and I feel like I’ve got more knowledge in that game” Chapman said.
Since its inception in 2017, over 1000 girls have been part of NSWRL Tarsha Gale Cup squads — 12 of which are currently listed with NRLW squads.
Chapman played in both the Tarsha Gale Cup and the Harvey Norman NSW Women‘s Premiership this year and believes both competitions helped fast-tracked her development.
The livewire also credits her father Dave for supporting her ever since she started playing footy as a five-year-old at their local club the Kurnel Stingrays.
“Dad is my biggest inspiration for footy, I’m so excited that he’ll be there to watch me,” Chapman said.
“We’ve been through a lot together, he’s always been by my side, we have a very close bond … he’s so excited that he’s cried a few times.”
After a challenging and uncertain year – during which she found herself without any work or footy – Chapman is itching to make her mark on the NRLW.
“I work in a gym in Cronulla, so I was out of work for a few months, I had a pretty hard time,” Chapman said.
“But having that hope that the NRLW might be on, it kept me training every day. Daniel Lacey (Dragons NRLW coach) would call me to check in too, that kept me going.”
NSWRL General Manager of Football Barrie-Jon Mather said that the increasing number of Tarsha Gale graduates joining NRLW squads prove that NSW’s pathway to the elite national competition is stronger than ever.
“It (Tarsha Gale Cup) has been in place since 2017, we are just now beginning to see some of the fruits of it, it’s been a really important step for those girls to go from a community competition to a representative competition,” Mather said.
“It prepares them for the Harvey Norman (NSW Women’s Premiership) and then the NRLW competition after that.”