The Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Premiership has proved to be a vital pathway for female players and has produced no shortage of star players including Kirra Dibb, Simaima Taufa and Isabelle Kelly who have gone on to represent NSW in the Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Origin team. With the season poised to kick off tomorrow, NSWRL previews the 11 teams who will take part this season (click here for team lists/draw).
Cabramatta Two Blues v Wests Tigers, Saturday March 13 at 12:00pm
Cabramatta re-enter the competition this season after not competing in the revised competition last year due to COVID-19 and will be looking to hit the ground running.
Cabramatta halfback Guilhermina El-Mir said the Two Blues, who made it all the way to Week Two of the Finals Series in 2019 on the back of St George Illawarra Dragons NRLW player Rikeya Horne, were welcoming a lot of new faces this season under coach Steve Awick.
“We’re definitely excited to start fresh with a new team and new girls,” El-Mir said.
“I’m looking forward to playing with prop Nat Bainou and a couple of the forwards.
“They’re really strong and I’m keen to see how all the girls go, everyone has a lot to offer this season.
“Steve’s been great – he’s really jumping on board, getting a good team behind him and getting some structure towards Cabra which is what we need, so that’s been great.”
The Wests Tigers were a strong contender in last year’s competition, progressing to Week Two of the Finals and finishing the regular season in fourth position.
Last year, Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Origin fullback and Tigers captain Botille-Vette Welsh took out the Player’s Player Award while halfback Sophie Curtain was crowned Player of the Year and both will line up for the Tigers on Saturday.
Sophie’s sister, Emily, will play in her usual position at halfback and coach Neil Stanley credited her and her sister for putting the team through their paces.
“Pre-season was tough but in saying that if it gets us to where we need to be at the end of the season then it’s benefitting us,” Curtain said.
“By being there with those experienced girls like Bo it pushes us to be like them and pushes us to get to where they are at.”
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks v South Sydney Rabbitohs, Saturday March 13 at 1:30pm
The Sharks were regular contenders throughout the 2020 season, headed by star halfback Maddie Studdon and Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Origin squad members Tiana Penitani, Corban McGregor and Kennedy Cherrington.
They made it to Week Two of the finals series before being beaten by the Central Coast Roosters.
Cronulla will have plenty of firepower heading into Round 1 with Penitani named at fullback, McGregor and Studdon in the halves, Cherrington at lock and new recruit while NSW 2020 Women’s Origin debutant Quincy Dodd has come over from the Bulldogs and will play at hooker.
“We’ve come a long way and have been working really hard in pre-season, we’ve got new coaching staff and heaps of new players on board so we can’t wait to get out there,” Studdon said.
“We’ve got a couple of new forwards in Crystal Papalii, who came up from Canberra, so we’ve got a couple of girls from Canberra now.
“I think across the whole board it’s going to be really exciting to see the team – we’ve got a few key players from last year and new young girls as well so I’m looking forward to seeing how we go.”
South Sydney Rabbitohs welcomed a new coach in former NRL player Dean Widders in 2020 and with his guidance the team finished in sixth place and made it into Week One of the Finals series before exiting at the hands of North Sydney.
The Rabbitohs will be coached by Widders once more and led by fullback Rikka Lamb, who has been with the club since 2018. Souths should also be strong through the middle, with Moniqca Mo’Ale at prop and Ellie Johnston in the second row.
“I would say the one I look up to most would be Ellie because she’s a workhorse, she keeps going and going and she never gives up,” centre Monique Donovan said.
“We’ve definitely stepped it up from last year so I’m very keen to see how we go this season. The girls have been training really hard and the team is coming together really nicely.”
St Marys Saints v Glebe-Burwood Wolves, Saturday March 13 at 1:30pm
St Marys were unable to compete in season 2020 due to COVID-19 but this season are back and have an exciting Round One game against newcomers Glebe-Burwood Wolves.
Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Origin representative Sarah Togatuki and halfback Emily Rains have been named co-captains of the side. The Saints welcome back St George Illawarra Dragons NRLW player and Jillaroo Rikeya Horne, who possesses explosive speed as a backrower.
Former North Sydney player Josephine Maejirs, who switched to the Saints after three years at the Bears, is looking forward to making an impact at the club when she lines up at prop on Saturday.
“We reached the Grand Final last year, unlucky with a loss but it’s something I bring across to St Marys – that hunger, that professionalism and that eliteness that hopefully we can grow at St Marys,” Maejirs said.
“St Marys offered for me to play and I thought it would be good to grow the game.
“I’m also involved in their elite player program for the Under 16 and Under 18 teams which was ground-breaking for the area, so I wanted to be part of that and also to be part of a new team.”
Foundation club Glebe will enter a Women’s side in the Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Premiership for the first time in history to create an 11-team competition and have signed players including Rabbitohs recruits Taleena Simon, Lavina O'Mealey, Rebecca Riley and Zali Dymock.
“Everyone is pretty excited, it’s a big first for everyone so we’re all learning as we go and hopefully can get our season off to the right start against St Marys,” Annedrea Christoforou said.
“We’ve all come from everywhere – there’s even girls that travel from Dubbo for training and girls come up from Wollongong.
“The vibe is really good at training so hopefully we can take that and put it on the field and go from there.”
Central Coast Roosters v North Sydney Bears, Saturday March 13 at 2:30pm
The Central Coast Roosters entered the competition for the first time last season and tasted immediate success.
They took out the premiership with a 16-10 defeat of North Sydney Bears and proved to be the team to beat during the regular season with their roster including Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Origin stars Kylie Hilder, Isabelle Kelly and NSW vice-captain Hannah Southwell.
Coach John Strange will be at the helm again in 2021 but they will have to do it this time around without Hilder after she hung up the boots at the end of last season.
“I think we had a strong team and we were getting on a roll just as the season ended last year but now I think we’re even stronger which is really exciting,” Kelly said.
“But I know that the comp is evolving, and girls are improving every single year, so it’s going to be tough but we’re very excited.
“We’ve got a few new girls. We’ve got Simone who played for the Tigers last year, we’ve got Jocelyn who was in the team last year but is playing at a halfback position for the first time. She comes from an AFL background so she brings a new type of game.”
The Bears came so close last year, going down by six points to the Roosters in the Grand Final, but they will get their chance to exact revenge in Round One.
North Sydney have recruited dual international Lisa Fiaola as their new coach, who coached the Bulldogs Women’s team last year, while strength and conditioning coach Dimi Poulos has been putting the player through their paces during pre-season.
The Bears should start strongly with 2020 Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Origin debutant Shanice Parker named at fullback, crafty New Zealander Nita Maynard at hooker while Holli Wheeler, who is making her comeback from a knee injury which sidelined her last season, has been named in the second row.
“It’s really cool the environment the Bears staff and everyone around us has made,” Parker said.
“They’ve really created a professional environment for us to really sell if some of girls want to go into future pathways at NRLW and Origin.
“My absolute favourite thing is the connection and bond we all have as staff, players - even our board members like to get amongst what we’re doing. It’s just awesome to be part of that culture and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
Wentworthville Magpies v Mounties – Monday March 15 at 7:00pm - live streamed via NSWRL
Wentworthville were unable to make the finals series last year but coach Kevin Chester has put the team through a long pre-season and they are ready to come out firing on Monday night.
NSW, Australian, and Dragons NRLW representative Teina Clark has been named at lock and 2021 Maori All Stars hooker Hayley Tipene will be coming off the bench in 14.
“A lot of preparation has gone into this,” Tipene said.
“We’ve trained for about 13 weeks so we’re definitely ready.
“I’m really excited to play with Ness Foliaki, she’s been a great leader in the team, she came from Mounties last year and she will be part of our success this year.”
Mounties has been one of the strongest contenders in the Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Premiership over the past few years, taking out the title in 2018 and progressing to the Grand Final in 2019.
Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Origin enforcer Simima Taufa has returned as captain after a stint with the Bears last season which should help Mounties be a force again in 2021.
The team boasts a powerful forward pack with 2020 Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Origin debutant Filomina Hanisi being named at prop after making the switch from the Tigers.
“I feel like we have a reputation at our footy club but we’re just happy that we’re part of the season after not being able to compete in 2020 (because of COVID-19),” centre Jocephy Daniels said.
“”Mima’ is our captain, one of our head of leadership and role models that we look up to so we’re privileged to have her on our team and have somebody that shows us the standard and sets the standard as well.”
The Helensburgh Tigers will join the competition for the first time in history and although they have a bye in Round One they will boast some big names stars from the get-go.
The Tigers won the local Illawarra Women’s competition last year, defeating reigning premiers Corrimal Cougars, off the back of players including NSW Women’s Origin captain Kezie Apps and NSW representatives Sam Bremner, Jess Sergis and Shakiah Tungai.
“We’re stoked, it’ll be a good competition for us all and really challenge us,” Tigers captain Josie Strong said.
“We’ve got Kezie, Jess, Sammy and a couple of young guns that are coming up too.
“Our coach Ryan Powell is a really good, he coached last year when we won down at home and he’s a massive footy nerd so it’s great to have him in charge.”