It’s been a long wait, broken up by test matches and the historic debut of the Women’s State of Origin, but now it’s finally over – the NRL Women’s Premiership is set to kick off amidst finals fever in September.
It’s massive news for the Newcastle and Hunter region as well, as a cohort of local talent has spread across three of the four inaugural teams in the national competition, with three set to take to the park in the opening match on Saturday afternoon.
Running out in the tri-colours of the Sydney Roosters, Origin hero Isabelle Kelly leads the Hunter cohort as a star signing in the newly founded first grade, and will be joined by veteran commander Kylie Hilder.
Muswellbrook’s youth Olympics gold medalist Brydie Parker has also been signed by Sydney.
The Roosters’ Hunter trio will face an interesting opening test in their NRL career, as they come face to face with the New Zealand Warriors at ANZ Stadium.
The travelling all-Kiwi roster will be guided by former Kiwi Ferns captain Luisa Avaiki, but with Kelly touted as one of the best players currently in the game all eyes will be on Newcastle’s shining light to deliver the goods on Satuday afternoon.
Kelly has been named in the centres for the Roosters, while Hilder is the team’s starting hooker. Parker has not been included in the match-day squad.
The second game of the opening round sees two more Hunter representatives debut for the St George Dragons against the Brisbane Broncos at Suncorp Stadium.
Hannah Southwell – who described rugby league as her “first love” when first signing for the Red V – and Holli Wheeler, who made the shift to Newcastle from the northern town of Taree, will be both starting as impact second rowers from the bench in the Sunday afternoon clash.
While neither are set to start for Brisbane due to knee injuries, Jillaroos half Caitlin Moran and Jayme Fressard were originally included in the club’s 22 player roster before being removed due to their long-term absences.
Roosters v Warriors will kick off at 3.05pm at ANZ Stadium, and Broncos v Dragons will begin at 1.45pm at Suncorp Stadium.
Both games will be televised on Fox Sports, Channel Nine and League Pass online. Team lists are also available on NRL.com.