Sydney Roosters are set to win the race to snare the services of injured NSW and Australian captain Ruan Sims for the inaugural Holden NRL Women’s Premiership.
With the deadline for finalising deals with players on marquee playing contracts with the NRL and NZRL expiring at 5pm on Monday, it is understood the Roosters are preparing to announce the signing of 15 star recruits, headed by Sims.
Among them are believed to be NSW halves Maddie Studdon and utility Lavina O’Mealey, prop Simaima Taufa and centres Isabelle Kelly and Corban McGregor.
The Roosters are also understood to have signed Jillaroos and Queensland Reds playmaker Zahara Temara. Club officials have not yet confirmed any signings for the Roosters squad.
Brisbane, who announced their first five signings last week, are also understood to have signed the maximum 15 players from the 60-strong elite player pool, including a handful of Kiwi Ferns stars.
However, St George Illawarra are looking to local talent to help supplement their big-name signings, Sam Bremner, Kezie Apps and Talesha Quinn, and have not signed the maximum 15 marquee players.
With an established women's competition in Illawarra since 1990, and separate Steelers and Dragons teams in the NSWRL U18s Tarsha Gale Cup, the Dragons have focused on providing an opportunity for those players to play at the NRL level.
Rikeya Horne, who plays for Corrimal in the Illawarra Women’s Premiership, and Jess Sergis, whose partner is Dragons utility Zac Lomax, are expected to wear the Red V, while the club plans to announce more marquee signings on Wednesday.
It is believed St George Illawarra have also signed players from the Kiwi Ferns team which went down to the Jillaroos 23-16 in the final of last year's World Cup.
The Dragons had been keen on Sims, who is from Gerringong in their local catchment area and whose brother Tariq plays for the club, but the Jillaroos prop is set to take up an offer from the Roosters.
Sims, who has media roles with ABC radio and Channel 9, is arguably the highest profile women’s player and would be part of a star-studded Roosters roster, which is also believed to include Brisbane-based Vanessa Foliaki and Karina Brown.
The Broncos last week announced the signing of Kiwi Ferns star Teuila Fotu-Moala, the 2017 international player of the year, along with Jillaroos halves Ali Brigginshaw and Caitlin Moran, hooker Brittany Breayley and prop Heather Ballinger.
With 21 of the NRL top 40 players hailing from Queensland, the Broncos are expected to sign the majority of the Maroons team selected for next week’s Women’s State of Origin at North Sydney Oval, including New Zealand international Maitua Feterika .
Former Jillaroos skipper Steph Hancock, who has retired from Test duty but will play for Queensland in the June 22 Origin fixture, is expected to be the first player signed by Brisbane from outside the marquee player pool.
Those players on marquee contracts who have not already been signed can be recruited as free agents and the four clubs in the inaugural NRL Women’s Premiership have until July 31 to finalise their 22-strong rosters.
Sims has confirmed she will miss the Origin clash against Queensland after undergoing surgery on her hand last week.
Sims was injured playing for NSW Country against Queensland City at the Harvey Norman National Championships on the Gold Coast a fortnight ago and as a series regular for Channel Nine's 100% Footy on Monday night told the panel of her setback.
The injury comes as a huge blow for the Blues, who are chasing three straight years of triumph.
"Unfortunately this has ruled me out, I went in for surgery on Thursday and had a plate put into my fifth metacarpal," Sims said.
"I had a spiral fracture which was unstable, the surgeon needed to fix it."
It was a forgettable weekend for Sims who also required stitches above her left eye before suffering a broken nose the following day.
Sims joked the surgeon was impressed with her work in correcting her broken nose on the field before packing into a scrum alongside Jillaroos teammate Kezie Apps, but that the injury would require its own surgery next week.
"It was a big weekend of footy – stitches, a broken nose and broken hand," Sims said.
"But I wouldn't have it any other way."
Holden Women's State of Origin is ready kick-off a new era in elite women's sport. Witness the spirit of Origin manifest on the iconic North Sydney Oval on Friday, June 22. Tickets available now!