The first-week NRL Women’s premiership team lists have been revealed, and there’s a host of Newcastle and Hunter stars set to return and debut this weekend in the national competition’s second full season.
The Sydney Roosters boast the most talents from the region after signing starting players Melanie Howard, Hannah Southwell, Caitlan Johnston, and Rebecca Young in the offseason. They join Tricolours founding player Isabelle Kelly in the Round 1 squad.
CRL Newcastle stars Bobbi Law and Simone Smith have also been included in Rick Stone’s extended first-round team list in the 18 and 20 jumpers, though it remains to be seen if they’ll be swapped into the gameday squad come Saturday at AAMI Park.
Blues superstar Holli Wheeler has also been named to start in the opening round, after remaining with the St George Dragons for 2019.
Wheeler, who was named the Dragons’ top player in their inaugural season, has made the switch from the second row to lock against the Broncos.
Every woman involved in the league’s second year is excited, including Golden Boot winner Isabelle Kelly, who battled back from injury with CRL Newcastle in the state competition earlier this year.
“I was happy with how I’ve performed since coming back from injury with CRL Newcastle,” Kelly told NRL.com after the team announcements.
“If I can just do my job for the team I’ll be happy and we’re all really determined to go one better this year. Our combinations are going well and we’ve got a lot of players who can slot in anywhere and do a job.”
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Kelly, who is set to continue her partnership with Newcastle coach Rick Stone for the 2019 premiership, says she wants to see the Tricolours go one better this time around after falling to the Broncos in the decider last year.
“We just didn’t go into last year with all heart and at a full pace,” Kelly said. “We tried to ease into it thinking we could come away with the win. In a short competition, you can’t afford to do that.
“Whether we just thought it would happen because of the players we had, I’m not sure. But the girls who were here last year have really tried to drill it into the new players that it’s not an easy competition and you need to hit the ground running.”
The Roosters are set to open the 2019 NRLW season against the Warriors at AAMI Park on Saturday afternoon, while the Dragons face the Broncos the following day at Bankwest Stadium. Both games will be live on GEM and Foxtel.