Brisbane Broncos NRLW captain Ali Brigginshaw.

Brisbane NRLW captain Ali Brigginshaw applauded her troops for rising above some "rubbish" in Sunday's tenacious 14-4 win over a Dragons team featuring five ex-Broncos.

Despite claiming last year's maiden NRLW premiership without losing a match, a new-look Brisbane outfit entered the clash as underdogs with St George Illawarra installed as competition favourites on the strength of their recruitment.

Kiwi Ferns reps Kimiora Nati, Maitua Feterika, Teuila Fotu-Moala, Ngatokotoru Arakua and 2018 Dally M Medallist Brittany Breayley departed Red Hill to don the Red V.

And while Brigginshaw said friendships are intact away from the heat of battle, she admitted there was added feeling as they faced the quintet at Bankwest Stadium.

"I thought the girls handled it well - we didn't get involved in any rubbish that was on the field," Brigginshaw told NRL.com.

"I don't know how you write off undefeated premiers but they [the critics] did ... I think everyone that wrote us off gave us a bit of fire there to come out against our old teammates.

"I made it a clear message to the girls - they left us. So we can't go and blame the Dragons, they chose to leave us so that's their dealings.

"I was just really proud that the girls didn't care who they were up against. They just wanted to play the game and they did the Broncos jersey really proud.

"We really wanted it so we were throwing our bodies in everywhere and in the second half we just wanted it more than them."

Lavinia Gould filled the Broncos No.9 jumper vacated by Breayley and had a blinder against her predecessor, hitting hard in defence and setting up the opening try for prop Amber Paris-Hall with a clever pass.

"I knew [Gould] would handle it - she's a competitor," Brigginshaw said of the hooker.

"She's played a lot of rugby [union]. She hasn't played a lot of league but she was a part of what we did last year.

"I knew she'd pick up where Brit left. I said, 'Just trust her, just trust in what Lavinia does'. Brittany is an amazing player but 'Vini' came in and defensively I thought was our best. That was really pleasing."

The Broncos fielded eight women who made their club debuts versus the Dragons but their impregnable defence remained from last season.

Brigginshaw said Brisbane's assistant coaches, NRL legends Simon Mannering and Corey Parker, have been instrumental in their work without the ball.

"I'm sure people that watched the game could see how much effort we put into making sure we do that right," Brigginshaw said.

"Seeing the young girls put hits on and be involved in everything we do, they've bought into what we're about and that was the most pleasing part in that win.

"[Mannering and Parker] are both massive. We do a couple of drills regularly each week and they lift us. Corey was massive on the field [running the water], lifting our spirits when times were tough.

"That was something I said after the game: 'Thanks, you've lifted us'."

Brigginshaw's kicking game was another key to the victory, the halfback consistently finding open space to turn St George Illawarra around.

"I was cranky I didn't get a 40-30 but that's something to work on," she laughed.