NSW City’s Simaima Taufu finally gets the chance to strut her stuff at the 2019 Harvey Norman Women’s National Championships after missing the opening two matches due to her recovery from a concussion in club competition.
And the 25-year-old Jillaroo’s timing couldn’t be better as she will take her place at lock for Sunday’s grand final against NSW Country, in a re-match of last year’s decider.
NSW Country beat NSW City 16-12 in 2018 and the memories still linger for some in City’s line-up.
“I’m not a big one on revenge but it (a win) could be satisfying for quite a few people in the City squad last year,” City coach Steve Kelly said.
“We’ve just got to concentrate on our job today and put all that behind us.
“Country is one of the most accomplished sides running around – we’re definitely coming in as the underdogs today.”
But the addition of Taufu’s aggression and experience – she is also an incumbent from the winning NSW Origin side last year - is a real bonus for City.
“Simaima is a long-awaited return for us,” Kelly said.
“We had to wait for some protocols to be checked off and now she’s cleared. She's 100 per cent fine now.
“She’s ready to play and I can’t remember seeing someone more ready to go than she is today.
“It’s a big lift for the girls; a big lift for the team.
“The conversation I had with Simaima was that she owed it to the girls for getting you here so now it’s time for payback.”
Taufu's injection also gives City a Mounties backrow with teammates Shaylee Bent and Sarah Togatuki.
One of the rookies to the NSW City side this year, Wests Tigers back Botille Vette-Welsh has earned herself a spot on Kelly’s bench for her strong showing in the opening two games, particularly her one-on-one steal that set up centre Jess Sergis for the match-winner against South-East Queensland.
North Sydney’s Aliti Nomace hurt her left knee in that 22-18 win but after scans she’s been cleared of any structural damage.
Another one of Kelly’s nine debutants in the 2019 squad of 24 players, Namoce will miss one or two weeks of football.
“I’m disappointed for her today because she’s a star of the future,” Kelly said.
“But I had a coffee and a chat with her this morning and she’s in good spirits – I think we’ll be hearing about her for some time to come.”
Wentworthville’s Aaliyah Faamausuli also damaged her right medial ligaments in City’s first win over Combined Affiliated States (CAS) and wasn’t available for selection in the grand final team. She is set for between four and six weeks on the sidelines.
The grand final against NSW Country is set for a 1.45pm kick-off at Burleigh Heads’ Pizzey Park before the squad returns to Sydney on Sunday night.
The national championships double as selection trials for the 2019 Holden Women’s State of Origin teams, with Blues coach Andrew Patmore due to finalise his side this week.
NSW CITY TEAM: 1 Corban McGregor (Cronulla), 2 Kiana Takairangi (Cronulla), 3 Shontell Stowers (North Sydney), 4 Jess Sergis (Helensburg), 5 Tiana Penitani (Cronulla), 6 Quincy Dodd (Cronulla), 7 Maddie Studdon (Cronulla), 8 Eli Walton (Canterbury), 9 Kaarla Cowan (Cronulla), 10 Teina Clark (Wentworthville), 11 Shaylee Bent (Mounties), 12 Sarah Togatuki (Mounties), 13 Simaima Taufa (Mounties). Interchange: 14 Christine Pauli (Mounties), 15 Najvada George (Wests Tigers), 16 Bo Vette-Welsh (Wests Tigers), 17 Jade Fonua (Wentworthville). 18th and 19th players: Shanice Parker (North Sydney), Rebecca Riley (South Sydney)