Isabelle Kelly and Brydie Parker are set for a grand final showdown next weekend in the NRL Women’s Premiership, after a 26-nil victory at Allianz Stadium sent the Sydney Roosters into second place on the inaugural ladder.
The Rooster had opened the three-game campaign with two heavy defeats at the hands of the Brisbane Broncos and the New Zealand Warriors, but a reverse of fortunes against the St George Illawarra Dragons on Saturday evening has seen them punch their ticket to the very first big dance for the NRLW.
While Kelly has played all three games for the Tricolours, it was a special moment for Muswellbrook’s Parker, who benefited from a mid-week positions shift to make her debut in the new top-level competition, and collected a try in the 46th minute.
The roster shuffle also saw star halfback Maddie Studdon dropped to a utility role on the bench, while Zahara Temara slotted into the commanding position on the field.
It was a masterstroke by Roosters coach Adam Hartigan, who knew the squad had to bag a two-point victory to punch their ticket to the final at ANZ Stadium next weekend.
“I think it’s been frustrating for the players – if you look at the side we recruited, I think they just thought it would happen,” Hartigan said. “Credit to the 17 that played, they were great.”
“We felt like we needed to play a bit more direct, we needed to hold the Dragons up a bit to get some ball to Issy (Kelly) and Taleena (Simon) and that paid off.
“I’m happy for the girls. It was a big weight off their shoulders now knowing that they’re now into the first ever grand final against the Broncos.”
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While Kelly shone in her usual beaming light, and Parker nabbed a try in her opening game, it was Taleena Simon that starred in the clash – the livewire winger crossed four times in 29 minutes for the Roosters.
“There’s a lot of instinct in that girl (Simon), she’s very talented,” Hartigan said. “She had a great week at training and identified that she wanted touch the ball a bit more.”
The Roosters – as well as Hunter duo Kelly and Parker – will face the undefeated Brisbane Broncos outfit in the NRLW decider on Sunday, September 30. The match will be played as a curtain-raiser for the Roosters vs Melbourne Storm NRL final.
The NRL Women’s Premiership grand final will be aired on Channel Nine, FOX Sports and League Pass. Kick-off will be at 1.35pm.