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Broncos still benchmark but new stars emerge to close gap

An unprecedented spirit of co-operation between clubs and codes culminated in the most competitive NRLW grand final so far as any doubts about whether the game has enough talent to expand were dispelled.

The Broncos beat Sydney Roosters 20-10 to claim a third consecutive title but the gap has narrowed as the NRLW rose to another level in 2020 with the inclusion of Australian Rugby Sevens stars and new faces such as Yasmin Meakes, Lauren Brown, Kennedy Cherrington and Elsie Albert.

Unlike Ellia Green and Charlotte Caslick, who will return to rugby union next year to pursue a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, Meakes, Brown and Cherrington earned their places by impressing in the NSWRL’s Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership

The second-tier competitions in NSW, Queensland and New Zealand are improving and preparing an increasing pool of playing talent for the Telstra Women’s Premiership.

Brisbane coach Kelvin Wright, Roosters mentor Jamie Feeney, St George Illawarra’s Daniel Lacey and their Warriors counterpart Brad Donald have all been heavily involved in women’s rugby league for a long period and know the players.

Amid the uncertainty and doubts caused by COVID-19, the coaches spoke to each other and worked together to ensure the NRLW season was not only able to proceed but got better.

Amber Hall wins Karyn Murphy Medal

Feeney is an assistant to Donald with the Jillaroos, while Lacey is involved with the NSW team and Wright is a former Kiwi Ferns coach.

Donald had been in contact with Australian Rugby 7s coach John Manenti about the possibility of a match between their two teams before he answered an SOS to take on the Warriors job due to border restrictions.

With Green and rugby Sevens team-mate Evania Pelite joining the Warriors, Donald and Manenti remained in contact and it is likely that players will continue to move between the codes in coming seasons.

The NRLW was due to expand to two full rounds of matches between the four clubs ahead of the introduction of more teams but COVID-19 put paid to expansion plans this season.

Some players were unable to commit to playing due to the impact border restrictions and the NRL’s biosecurity protocols would have on their jobs or living conditions, while just six members of the Warriors squad chose to relocate to Australia.

However, the standard of the competition left no doubt that the depth of talent exists to expand as more tries were scored against better defences than in past season, while the strategic kicking of playmakers improved.

NRLW coaches support expansion

Broncos captain Ali Brigginshaw confirmed her standing as the game’s leading player after starting the grand final in the unfamiliar position of lock in a switch with Tarryn Aiken.

The gamble by Wright paid off as Brisbane dominated through the middle in the opening stages to race to a 12-0 lead after Aiken sliced through the Roosters defence near halfway to send Tamika Upton racing away and Amber Hall crashed over for their second try.

Quincy Dodd does it again

The playing depth in both squads was demonstrated by the impact of players who started the match from the interchange, with bench utility Quincy Dodd and former Wallabies forward Gracie Hamilton helping to shift momentum in favor of the Roosters before half-time.

A 27th minute try by Dodd try narrowed the Broncos lead to just 12-10 at half-time and the closest scoreline at the interval of any of the three NRLW grand finals so far resulted in the closest full-time score.

 

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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