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Southwell seeks some redemption

Win or loose in Sunday’s NRLW Grand Final at least Harvey Norman NSW Sky Blues forward Hannah Southwell will have her football boots on.

When her Newcastle Knights team beat Parramatta in last year’s decider, Southwell was on the sidelines after an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) rupture in Round One of 2022 cut short her season.

But after the full-time hooter sounded her teammates dragged her out to the presentation stage. She is the only Knight dressed in a club training jacket in the celebration photos.

This year she’s played seven games, co-captained the side with Tamika Upton, and is part of the action once more. She will line-up against the Gold Coast on Sunday at Accor Stadium.

“I was so happy for the girls and I did feel a part of it last year, but you’re not really,” Southwell told

“You don’t have the jersey on; you weren’t on the field … so to actually be a part of it this time, step on the field and play, is something very special to me.

“It’s been a long 12 months since I did that. So to do it with my best mates and my little sister (Jesse) is pretty unreal.”

Hannah Southwell (second from right). Photo: NRL Photos
Hannah Southwell (second from right). Photo: NRL Photos

Interestingly, while Southwell is back, 10 other Knights players left the club at the end of 2022 – including six grand finalists.

Despite that setback, here the Knights are back in the grand final when many expected the loss of personnel to hit them harder.

“Normally that’s the way it goes but we’ve got a great culture here and great set of girls,” Southwell said.

“I pulled everyone in a couple of weeks before semis and said ‘Look, do we all buy in and do we all believe?’

“I did that because we weren’t playing the greatest, although we were winning.

“We created this open type of forum where anyone could vent anything they needed to.

“They all said ‘Yes, we’re buying in’. A lot of people talk about who we lost, but who we gained was just as important.”

Among the signings for 2023 are four players in Sunday’s grand final team – wingers Jasmin Strange and Sheridan Gallagher, centre Abigail Roache and utility hooker Nita Maynard. Gallagher and Roache are the Knights top try-scorers with six each.

“We just instilled the steel and focus and the will to win, because we knew we’d be the hunted this year,” Southwell said.

“The girls we got in gave us that too from their previous clubs and my sister Jesse is just born like that.”

Speaking of steel, the Knights now carry the hopes of the Newcastle faithful.

“We look at it as a privilege. Newcastle has never been a town solely about winning. Newcastle is about doing the hard yards, being gritty, and just getting things done.

“The town doesn’t care if you win or lose, it’s about how you perform and giving it your all.

“They just want us to give it a crack. We don’t feel pressure from Newcastle – we just want to play well and play tough.”  

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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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