South Sydney Rabbitohs superstar Greg Inglis was an impressed spectator as the First Nation Gems accounted for the New Zealand Maori Ferns at Redfern Oval on Saturday.
The First Nation Gems claimed victory 18-0 as part of the week-long Festival of Indigenous Rugby League which has been filled with culture and pride, and all it needed on Saturday was a great display of football.
The players and the community have taken part in the week ensuring the celebration of indigenous cultures be a positive and empowering experience.
Inglis, along with many other NRL indigenous players were keen spectators, as the Gems showed their wares. The star fullback NRL.com the women’s contribution is a valued and important part of the game.
“The festival is significant within itself. It’s definitely important that the festival incorporated and recognised the women in our sport," he said.
“Our culture is the longest living culture on Earth so why not celebrate our women in the sense they want to be celebrated and that’s rugby league.”
Leading into the women’s match both sides faced off in an emotional and powerful pre-game war cry, hyping up the atmosphere for the vocal crowd.
The Gems and Maori Ferns were aggressive and physical. There were plenty of big hits and strong hit-ups from both sides to create an enthralling contest.
In the end, superior ball security was the telling factor in the result for the Gems.
Early on the Ferns were caught on the back foot when Gems captain Samartha Leisha opened the scoring in the seventh minute, finding an opening in the visitors' scrambling defence.
Five-eighth Sarah Field added the extras for a 6-0 lead.
At the start of the second quarter, Gems powerhouse forward Rhianna Sutherland came off second best in a defensive contest but the home side maintained their lead heading into the main break.
In the third quarter, speedster Taleena Simon used her dazzling footwork to cross the line for the Gems' second try and Field's boot extended the advantage to 12-0.
The Gems kept their momentum going in the final quarter, cancelling out the Ferns defence. Simon sealed the win when shed notched her second try.
“We were all a bit nervous before the match but we all reassured each other and we knew we had each other’s back. We were going out as sisters regardless," Leisha said.
“I’m so proud. The girls really put in, helped each other out and were there for each other on the field.
“The win feels amazing and to be captaining the side it’s an unreal feeling and an amazing experience I’ll never forget.”
First Nation Gems 18 (Samartha Leisha, Taleena Simon (2) tries; Sarah field (3) goals) defeated New Zealand Maori Ferns 0.