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Now or never for the Steelers: coach

Finals football has arrived early for the Illawarra Steelers as they look to stave off the challenge from their rivals to hold on to their top-four position in the Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Premiership.

“Off the back of our loss last week (34-18 Newcastle Knights), this Saturday against the Wests Tigers is now a do-or-die game for us,” Steelers coach Alicia-Kate Hawke told

The Steelers-Tigers Round 11 game – the last match of the 2023 regular season – will be streamed live on NSWRL TV from Lidcombe Oval on Saturday at 12.30pm.

“We’re going in with the approach that if we want to be getting into finals and playing good football, then we need to be winning,” Hawke said.

“We definitely won’t be underestimating the Tigers as they’ve flown under the radar a bit this year.”

The Tigers (8th spot) are out of finals contention but three clubs – Central Coast Roosters, Mounties, Knights – are all on 12 competition points and only one win off the Steelers in third place.

The Roosters have a bye and will move to 14 points and also boast a superior for-and-against than the Steelers – as do the Mounties and the Knights.

The match-up between hookers Keeley Davis (Steelers) and Ebony Prior (Wests Tigers) will be crucial to a successful day.

“I remember playing against Ebony and she’s very nippy around the ruck, always finding the extra metres to get her team on the front foot,” Hawke said.

The Steelers are in their debut year in the Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Premiership and are close to full strength, although Sky Blues captain Kezie Apps is still being troubled by a leg problem.

“These are challenging types of injuries as you can’t push through them as much,” Hawke said. “They need to heal so she doesn’t risk doing any further damage.

“Fingers crossed we get the win this week and then we’re hoping to get her back for the semis.”

In Apps’ absence, Hawke has been relying on her more softly-spoken forwards.

“We’re a little bit different in that we’ve got more doers in our ‘engine room’ if you like, than talkers with the likes of (props) Viena Tinao and Rose Tafengatoto,” she said.

“They often get good momentum off the back of their carries and that fires everyone up.”

The game is part of a bumper weekend on NSWRL TV with 28 matches scheduled.

This includes all six elimination finals in Junior Reps – Harvey Norman Tarsha Gale Cup, UNE Harold Matthews Cup and UNE SG Ball Cup – plus all games in the Northern and Southern division for the Women’s Country Championships.

For Junior Reps elimination finals, Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Premiership Round 11, and The Knock-On Effect NSW Cup Round Seven matches, go to draws on

The full schedule of the Women’s Country Championships (WCC) games on NSWRL TV is:

Saturday 15 April

WCC – Northern Division. All games at Coffs Coast Sport and Leisure Park

Northern Tigers v Maitland-Newcastle Region Knights 9.30am

Northern Rivers v North Coast 11am

Central Coast Roosters v MNR Knights 12.30pm

Northern Tigers v Northern Rivers 2pm

CC Roosters v North Coast 3.30pm

WCC – Southern Division. All games at Taylor Park, Queanbeyan

Monaro v Illawarra 9.30am

Western v Riverina 11am

Illawarra v Macarthur 12.30pm

Riverina v Monaro 2pm

Macarthur v Western 3.30pm

Sunday 16 April

WCC – Northern Division. All games at Coffs Coast Sport and Leisure Park

North Coast v MNR Knights 9am

Northern Rivers v CC Roosters 10.30am

North Coast v Northern Tigers 12pm Northern Rivers v MNR Knights 1.30pm

CC Roosters v Northern Tigers 3pm

WCC – Southern Division. All games at Taylor Park, Queanbeyan

Monaro v Macarthur 9am

Western v Illawarra 10.30am

Riverina v Macarthur 12pm

Western v Monaro 1.30pm

Riverina v Illawarra 3pm

Acknowledgement of Country

New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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