After a multi-week break for the Easter holidays, the NSW Women’s Premiership has returned. For CRL Newcastle, the first game back couldn’t have gone much better, as they knocked over the Magpies 34-6 to move into fifth after four games played.
While the Newcastle team is already dripping with representative talent and NRL Womens stars, an extra spark came into the side in the form of Jillaroos star Simone Smith. The Kempsey-born fullback replaced Claire Reed at the base of the team’s spine and provided instant impact for Rick Stone’s squad.
Smith, who first soared to stardom at the Koori Knockout before donning the yellow and green of Australia, suffered a knee injury mid-way through 2018. The cruel fate denied her a chance to play in the new national competition last year and left her contemplating her path in rugby league.
Now she’s returned with a bang, scoring a key try in the 20th minute to put Newcastle up 16-nil. Veteran hooker Kylie Hilder, and Emma Young had both already crossed the line, while Knights product Sophie Buller was on hand to kick the first two conversions of the game.
With Reed ruled out due to a mandatory concussion rest period, Newcastle coach Rick Stone said it great to see Smith bring a “different dimension” to the side as she slotted into the number one position.
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“Simone has been training with us for a while now, and she hadn’t really had an opportunity to crack the starting lineup before this week,” he revealed. “With Claire out, Simone has the skillset to play at fullback so we decided she could do a job there. She delivered.”
The 28-point win was a crucial one for the Novocastrian side, Stone said. According to the veteran NRL coach, because of the short nature of the premiership, “every home game matters”.
“We had a couple of close losses in the second and third rounds against some really quality sides, but we were a bit disappointed with the opportunities that we’d missed so we were keen to get a win when we came back home,” he said. “In the context of the competition, and how short it is, your home games are really important to keep in touch with the leaders. We try to emphasise a little bit at home how much energy we need to bring.
“Our forwards did a pretty good job [at bringing the energy], they generated some great quick play the balls and it allowed Kylie [Hilder] to get out and play a bit of footy from dummy half. I think everyone appreciated the work they did this weekend, they deserve a lot of credit.”
If the forwards hadn’t already done enough in the contest, it was front rower and talismanic leader Bec Young who was next to crash over the line, heaping the hurt on the travelling Magpies just three minutes after Smith’s effort.
While Alyce Solaese nicked one back for Wentworthville to make sure they didn’t go home empty handed, Hannah Southwell and Mel Howard both had one final say in the clash, claiming tries in the 43rd and then the final minute of the game to confirm their side’s 28-point win.
The win moves Newcastle into fifth place after four games, equal with the Saints, Rabbitohs, and Magpies behind them on 10 points. They now face the Cronulla Sharks at 1.30pm next Saturday at St Johns Oval. The Sharks are currently third in the Women’s Premiership.
CRL Newcastle 34 (Kylie Hilder, Emma Young, Simone Smith, Bec Young, Hannah Southwell, Mel Howard tries; Sophie Buller 5 conversions) def. Wentworthville 6 (Alyce Solaese try; Michala Ford conversion)