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Knee injury curse strikes Sky Blues for World Cup

Three Harvey Norman NSW Sky Blues squad members have now seen their chances of playing in November’s World Cup fade away due to serious knee injuries, with Jillaroos coach Brad Donald confirming they all would have been in the mix for selection.

Lock forward Hannah Southwell now joins fullback Botille Vette-Welsh and winger Brydie Parker in rehabbing torn anterior cruciate ligaments (ACLs) that require a six-to-nine month healing period.

Southwell hurt her right knee in the 22nd minute of the Knights 32-14 win over the Broncos last Sunday. She had some treatment and strapping applied and stayed on the field for another 10 minutes until replaced by Mille Boyle close to half-time.

“Hannah is an incumbent (from last Test in 2019) so like all the incumbents she would have been looked at closely,” Donald said.

Southwell and Vette-Welsh both played against New Zealand in 2019, while Parker would have also been in the mix with her three tries from six games in the 2021 NRLW season. It doesn’t make Donald’s job any easier naming a 24-member squad after the NRLW Grand Final on 2 October.

“We’re reaching out to all those girls – they’re all superstars of the game – to make sure that we help and nurture them while they’re in recovery,” he said.

“It’s not the end of their representative career by any means; but it’s different for them from the guys.

“Normally in a (NRL team) rehab group you come in each day and there’s other guys there and you have the support of the club as full-time professionals.

“But our female players as semi-professional are doing a lot of that stuff by themselves. We want to wrap our arms around them, so they know they are still part of us.

“Hopefully that will keep their motivation up because they can still see what they’re part of.”

Vette-Welsh (Parramatta) hurt her knee in the final NRLW round in April, while Parker (Sydney Roosters) damaged hers two weeks later in the Grand Final against the Dragons.

Southwell’s diagnosis this week came as a real blow for Newcastle and the Southwell family. The club had just scored their first NRLW win, while Hannah ran onto the field with younger sister and debutant Jesse Southwell after both players were contracted to the Knights this season.

Hannah is one of only four players to have played every State of Origin game since the NRL rebranded the Interstate Challenge competition in 2018, with Kezie Apps, Isabelle Kelly and Simaima Taufa being the other three.

Southwell had also played every game of the previous four seasons of NRLW for the St George Illawarra Dragons (in 2018) and then the Sydney Roosters – including the 2021 Grand Final win – before joining the Knights in 2022.

She has two Australian Jillaroos caps and was the 2020 RLPA’s Players’ Champion.

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