In the second edition of The Broader Game, Alicia Newton talks to Tallisha Harden about the entry of an Indigenous side at this year's National Championships and provides updates in state competitions across NSW and Queensland.
An opens women's Indigenous side will feature for the first time at the Harvey Norman National Championships in May after receiving the green light this week.
An annual review into the Harvey Norman All Stars fixture in February led to the push for more opportunities for Indigenous players at the representative level.
"It gives a bunch of girls another opportunity," NRL Indigenous pathways manager Dean Widders said on NITV's Over the Black Dot this week.
"It's a big opportunity for our girls out there while it also helps us develop our next batch of coaches, trainers and physios so there's some progression for the Indigenous space within the female space."
Indigenous women's unity dance
The Indigenous side was beaten by a strong New Zealand Maori outfit 24-0 in Townsville but unlike previous years, rising players can now get another chance on the big stage and qualify to play in the tournament through their heritage.
NRLW scouts will be in attendance throughout the National Championships.
Indigenous All Stars captain Tallisha Harden believes the decision fills a gap for rising talent who were unable to play in the pre-season fixture.
"After All Stars there's not really anything available for Indigenous players to play together until the Koori Knockout or the Murri carnival," Harden told NRL.com.
"It's very exciting that developing players can now get a chance to play at nationals and show what they've got at the representative level.
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"There's nothing like going into a camp environment and spending a few days with a team and meeting new people and experience different players from various backgrounds."
The NRLW had 13 players with Indigenous heritage signed across all clubs in 2020 with the game eager to increase that figure as more teams are introduced in the future.
"I know Dean has been working really hard on a database that will track a lot of the young girls coming through from different competitions around Australia, particularly in rural areas," Harden said.
"We're doing our very best at ensuring young girls aren't slipping through the cracks and that everyone is getting an opportunity."
An Australian Defence Force team is also expected to return after COVID-19 cancelled the event last year.
No conflict of interest
Tahnee Norris has laughed off talk of future selection bias after being unveiled as the next Queensland Maroons coach earlier this week.
Norris will stay on as head coach of the Burleigh Bears for the BHP Premiership starting next month before taking on the lead Origin role.
The Bears are the most successful club side in Queensland having won five titles in six years with Origin representatives Tallisha Harden, Millie Boyle and Zahara Temara among eight stars in the side.
"I wouldn't say it will be biased because [they] got selected last year so I'm lucky that's already happened," Norris said.
"Because it is a one-off game it's a quick turnaround so to have that opportunity to play in the BHP premiership week-in-week-out we can already build those combinations."
It's a similar scenario for rival coach Kylie Hilder, who will remain involved with the Central Coast Roosters during the Harvey Norman NSW Premiership.
Bear raring to go for season opener
Still on the Bears, forward Chelsea Lenarduzzi will be available for the side's round one clash against the Tigers after overcoming a knee injury in the pre-season.
Lenarduzzi has been honing her coaching skills at Burleigh with the under 19s side while she's been unable to train.
She also showcased her skills as a social media specialist and videographer at a recent Jillaroos camp.
Lenarduzzi's coaching stint will be replaced by Spencer Taplin, who arrived to Australia with wife Carmen this week after their work with the Warriors and NZRL in New Zealand.
Bears fullback Tamika Upton is also on track for a return after undergoing knee surgery in the summer.
Round two washed away
The NSWRL is unlikely to reschedule round two of the Harvey Norman NSW Women's Premiership after last weekend's torrential rain in Sydney.
With a tight schedule already planned around the National Championships, State of Origin and NRL Telstra Women's Premiership, the only competition points awarded for the round will go to the Rabbitohs, who had a bye.
The third round of the competition will resume on Saturday with Cabramatta hosting ladder-leaders St Marys at New Era Stadium.