Representative superstar Isabelle Kelly had been a focal point of the Sydney Roosters’ attack in the inaugural NRL Women’s Premiership, so when she pulled up in the grand final against Brisbane Broncos with a suspected MCL injury she knew she would be costing the team so much by succeeding herself from the game.
It’s the passion and bravery of Kelly that has shone through for much of the first season of the women’s national competition, which ended last weekend with the Broncos running away in the big dance for a 34-12 win over the star-studded Roosters outfit.
The Sydney side, which also boasted Muswellbrook’s gun winger Brydie Parker to represent the Hunter region, were blown away by the Brisbane side that had dominated for much of the 2018 season, with superstars Ali Brigginshaw and Britt Breayley pulling the Bondi side apart to lift the very first premiership.
Despite Kelly staying on the field and gritting through the pain, her injury – coupled with Taleena Simon succumbing to her own ankle injury in the 30th minute – left the Roosters without two of their key strike weapons.
Kelly and Simon had scored more than half a dozen tries for Sydney in the three regular round fixtures leading into the grand final, and coach Adam Hartigan knew losing them was a major blow in the Roosters’ title aspirations.
“Losing Taleena and Izzy, which is where a fair few of our points came last week, that obviously hurt,” Hartigan said. “There was a stage there where the physio was suggesting that we needed to look at making a change for Isabelle but she refused to come off.”
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The Roosters solidified their defence after the Broncos onslaught left them trailing in the first, and conceded just one try in the second half, but the opening stanza had already cost them too much according to Hartigan.
“There was effort there but it definitely wasn’t good enough,” Hartigan said. “I think they came with the plan to try and bully us through the middle and they got some joy there in the first half.
“We came out after halftime and we definitely fought in the second half but it was well and truly gone then. It will hurt for a while but it will spur us on to make sure that we’re ready next year.”