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Emma excited to be in Sharks new NRLW team

Harvey Norman NSW Sky Blues fullback Emma Tonegato has praised the Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Premiership for helping spread the talent to four new clubs for the 2023 NRLW season.

Tonegato has been announced as one of the marquee signings for one of those debutant clubs – the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks – who along with the Wests Tigers, North Queensland Tigers and Canberra Raiders will push the NRLW out to 10 teams this year. The season is due to start 22 July.

Tonegato addressed the issue of whether there were enough elite-level Rugby League female players to fill the new clubs during an appearance on Channel Nine’s The Sunday Footy Show.

“It is a tricky one,” Tonegato said.

“It’s a case of what comes first – the teams or the talent.

“But with the Harvey Norman competition happening so well, everyone is getting better and better and there’s more exposure for players," she said.

“I think hopefully now all the young girls watching on TV can look up to somebody and put their hand up and tell their mum and dad they want to play Rugby League.”

The NSWRL Under 19s Tarsha Gale Cup and the NSW Women’s Premiership provide a pathway into the NRLW.

In 2021, 49 per cent of NRLW players had come through the Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Premiership and 33 per cent from the Tarsha Gale Cup. In 2022 those figures increased to 60 per cent and 40 per cent respectively.

In 2023, the Tarsha Gale Cup expanded to 13 teams and NSW Women’s Premiership to 11.

Tonegato joins her 2022 Sky Blues teammate Quincy Dodd as new Sharks signings. Dodd was the utility halves-hooker at the Dragons last year.

Tonegato is a two-time Olympian (Rugby Sevens), two-time World Cup winner (Rugby League) and joint Dally M Player of the Year recipient (with Millie Boyle).

At last November’s World Cup, Tonegato played fullback, lock and hooker for the Jillaroos. She told the Sunday Footy Show there could be another switch for her.

“A potential positional change could be on the cards, but we’ll see in pre-season how that all rolls out… whatever the team needs,” she said.

“It just might be a bit different for me in pre-season, and someone like (Sharks NRL halfback) Nicho Hynes has already reached out and offered to help me with my game. That’s invaluable at this point.

“He’s been capable in any position he plays, we’ve seen that over the past few years, so it’s going to be exciting.”

Hynes played 19 times at fullback in 36 games with the Melbourne Storm, along with a handful in the halves, before making the No.7 jumper his own after being signed by the Sharks last year.

NRLW clubs are still rolling out their rosters as pre-season doesn’t officially start until 29 May, but the Sky Blues stars listed below are already contracted.

Newcastle Knights: Yasmin Clydsdale, Hannah Southwell, Caitlan Johnston

Sydney Roosters: Olivia Kernick, Isabelle Kelly, Millie Boyle, Keeley Davis, Jessica Sergis

Sharks: Tonegato, Dodd, Holli Wheeler, Maddie Studdon

Raiders: Simaima Taufa, Skakiah Tungai

Wests Tigers: Kezia Apps, Sarah Togatuki, Botille Vette-Welsh

Gold Coast Titans: Shaylee Bent

North Queensland Cowboys: Kirra Dibb

Parramatta Eels: Rachael Pearson, Kennedy Cherrington

Brisbane Broncos: Filomina Hanisi

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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