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Harvey Norman women's Semis carry extra weight

The Semi-finals of the Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Premiership on Sunday will help determine the make-up of the City-Country sides, who do battle in a fortnight, and ultimately the Harvey Norman NSW Sky Blues Origin team.

NSW Sky Blues coach Kylie Hilder plus Country coach Ruan Sims and City coach Kate Mullaly will be in the stands at Leichhardt Oval. Sims and Mullaly were assistant Origin coaches last year and will be there again in 2023.

Hilder will not finalise her Origin team until after the Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Premiership Grand Final on Saturday 29 April.

But there are Country-City jerseys to be decided before that, for the annual clash on Thursday 4 May at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Kogarah.

“We’ve been looking over personnel for those two teams for the past couple of months,” Hilder said.

“There are still six weeks to the opening Origin game so a lot can happen. Every player in this weekend’s Semi-finals should have that mindset that rep jerseys are on the line.”

The first Semi-final has the North Sydney Bears (1) against Mounties (4) after the women in red-and-black claimed the Minor Premiership for the second consecutive season last weekend.

“Both the Bears and Mounties are coming off wins in the final club round,” Hilder said.

“For me the Bears might be just ahead with the amount of experience and talent across the field.

Jillaroo and Sky Blue outside back Jess Sergis return to the centres for the Bears after she scored a hat-trick at fullback against South Sydney last week.

Photo: Jim Walker
Photo: Jim Walker

The halves combination of 2022 Origin five-eighth Kirra Dibb and current Dally M winner Raecene McGregor has grown strong for the final five rounds of the competition. McGregor took over the No.7 role from Silver Ferns hooker Nita Maynard (pictured above).

“The forward pack is going really well too with Sarah Togatuki and Kalosipani Hopoate in great form,” Hilder said.

“In saying that, Mounties have gone into games and come out winners when few expected them to. They have a tremendous fighting spirit coming from that go-forward by the props and back-rowers.

“This will be a good physical game and I can easily see Mounties getting the upper hand in the middle, but the Bears outside backs should prove too strong.”

The second Semi-final has the Illawarra Steelers (2) up against Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs (3), where Sky Blue fullback Emma Tonegato will play another weekend at lock for Illawarra.

“I’m sure it’s to get the ball in Emma’s hands more often and the Steelers don’t lose anything with Teagan Berry at fullback,” Hilder said.

“She’s fast and will bring the ball back at speed. Steelers can utilise her running better at No.1.”

Hilder believes the match should swing on the ability of the halves to create the attacking raids.

Steelers’ Taliah Fuimaono and Rachael Pearson face the equally crafty Gayle Broughton and Tayla Preston.

“Steelers hooker Keeley Davis is also sure to get her middles to muscle up and going forward, and I understand Kezie Apps (leg) will undergo a fitness test closer to game day – she would be an added bonus if she can play,” Hilder said.

“To be honest I can’t pick this one. They are evenly balanced sides so whoever turns up on Sunday to play good football should come out winners.

“The Bulldogs have a great forward pack with the likes of Holli Wheeler, Kennedy Cherrington and Monalisa Soliola and a great set of halves, while Illawarra also have rep halves and highly-talented outside backs.”

Both Semi-finals at 11am and 12.45pm will be live streamed on NSWRL TV.

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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