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Westpac Lisa Fiaola Cup Finals | Six players to watch

Over the next two weeks, the top six teams from the Westpac Lisa Fiaola Cup will battle it out for a spot in this year’s Grand Final (27 April).

Here are six players from those top-six clubs who could set the finals alight ahead of the decider.

1. Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs – Asha Taumoepeau-Williams - Wing

A prefect home and away record across eight games makes the Bulldogs worthy winners of the Minor Premiership, scoring almost double the points (468) from the second-placed Illawarra Steelers (238). All eight wins were reached by scoring 35 points or more – two above 90.

No surprises then that with an attacking record like the Bulldogs, there are a number of players in great form. Eight have scored five tries or more this season with winger Asha Taumoepeau-Williams topping the list at 10. Fullback Nazlyn Waaka-Rhind scored her nine tries in just five games. And behind every good four-pointer is the chance to make it six – halfback Olivia Vaalele averaged six goals a match for a total of 49.

2. Illawarra Steelers – Michala Hardy - Lock

The Steelers only hiccup was a Round Four loss (32-16) to Parramatta but they won their last four games on the trot to send them confidently into the finals.

Lock Michala Hardy not only top-scored for her team with eight tries, she was a powerful presence up the middle. Winger and goal kicker Maddalyn Bullock contributed a personal tally of 66 points from two tries and 29 goals. Then there was No.7 Ella Greatiz (pictured above) providing a wonderful link with her outside backs and scoring seven tries herself.

3. Parramatta Eels – Bailey Ma-Chong - Hooker

Five of their six wins for the seasons drew scorelines above 30 points to put the Eels in a good frame of mind for a maiden finals berth in the inaugural year of Under 17s girls competition. Their biggest win was 50-4 over the Roosters in Round Six.

They did not face their Finals Week One opponents, the Knights, in the club rounds but they finished less than 20 points behind them in overall points scored over nine rounds (one bye). Hooker Bailey Ma-Chong had a hand in most of her team’s success by directing traffic superbly and scoring six tries, including two doubles. Top try-scorer was winger Nikita E with seven.

4. Central Coast Roosters – Mia Vaotuua – Centre

Although finishing fourth on the Lisa Fiaola Cup ladder, the Roosters had the second-best defensive record conceding just 78 points in their eight matches. They lost 26-16 to Wests Tigers in Round Five so will be eager for some revenge in Finals Week One.

Their centre Mia Vaotuua, who also had a couple of games at fullback, was a regular site plunging over the white-line with 13 tries making her the highest scorer across the whole competition. And her centre partner Breanna Bigeni not only scored nine tries but kicked 15 goals.

Central Coast Roosters centre Mia Vaotuua. Photos: Bryden Sharp
Central Coast Roosters centre Mia Vaotuua. Photos: Bryden Sharp

5. Wests Tigers – Lucyannah Luamanu-Leiataua – Second row

Scores were level at halftime in three of the Wests Tigers wins this year, proving they could kick on to get the job done in the second half. They also kept three clubs scoreless in their six wins – the Bears, Rabbitohs, and Sea Eagles.

 Another No.9 keeping the opposition honest each week was hooker Paige Attard. In addition to her fine work around the ruck she joined second rower Lucyannah Luamanu-Leiataua as the two top try-scorers in their side with six each. Five-eighth Agnews Faaui was an ever-present danger with three tries herself, while setting up a host for her teammates.

Wests Tigers five-eighth Agnews Faaui. Photos: Bryden Sharp
Wests Tigers five-eighth Agnews Faaui. Photos: Bryden Sharp

6. Newcastle Knights – Taylor-Jane Belcher - Centre

The Knights lost the first three games of the season but rallied scoring 84 points in the next two wins to make the finals, where they face the Eels.

Centre Taylor-Jane Belcher was instrumental in the fightback scoring a hat-trick in the 44-6 win over the Sea Eagles in Round Five and a double against the Dragons(40-8) in Round Six. Five-eighth Maronay Smuts and winger Stevie Botham made valuable contributions with six tries each, fullback Macey Cox scored five.

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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