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Southwell setting up a piece of history

Harvey Norman NSW Sky Blues half Jesse Southwell will become the youngest player to pull on the state jersey, when she lines up for her Origin debut at CommBank Stadium tomorrow (Thursday 1 June) night.

Southwell is 18 years and 109 days beating the previous NSW Origin record held by Brad Fittler (18 years 114 days).

“She’s young but she has an old head on her – she’s very mature for an 18-year-old,” Sky Blues coach Kylie Hilder said at this morning’s Captain’s Run.

“She has fitted in really well, working well with (halfback) Rachael (Pearson), and I’m excited for her to come out tomorrow night and what she can bring to the team.

“She has that little bit of X-factor as well.”

Co-captains Kezie Apps and Isabelle Kelly have also been impressed with how the young Newcastle Knight has taken to her new role in the team.

“You’ve seen how talented she is in the NRLW and how much she’s stood up and stood out,” Apps said.

“Coming into this game she has some of the best players around her – so I’m excited to see what she can do by backing herself and backing her ability.”

2023 Sky Blues co-captains Isabelle Kelly (L) and Kezie Apps
2023 Sky Blues co-captains Isabelle Kelly (L) and Kezie Apps

Kelly added: “I’m lucky enough to play outside of her… the way she can read the game and her skills set are enormous for her age.

“We know the Southwell sisters are pretty skilled and having Jesse in here adds so much to our team.”

Jesse’s older sister Hannah Southwell has been a regular in the Sky Blues team since 2018 but is unavailable for the 2023 series after undergoing a knee reconstruction late last year.

Apps and Kelly have been named co-captains this year – the first time for a women's Origin team.

“There’s a reason behind the co-captaincy; we want to give Kezie the respect as being our captain for the last few years,” Hilder said.

“But her role has changed. She’s now in the front row and not on the field all the time.

“So, we still need to have that leader that can step up and be the leader. And it’s worked great.

“Izzy and Kezie have played a lot of footy together and they know their roles.”

Apps will be playing her 10th game for NSW - equalling the record held by Elianna Walton – while Kelly is playing her ninth.

“The beauty about Kez and I is that we’ve been mates for a very long time, so we work well together and bounce off each other,” Kelly said.

“We’ve been training together with both of us on the field and talking to the team. Being out there with two captains is great as you have two sets of eyes looking at everything.”

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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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