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The Broader Game: Dragons searching for new NRLW coach

The Dragons are on the search for a new NRLW coach after parting ways with Daniel Lacey for the fourth season of the NRL Telstra Women's Premiership.

Lacey was the only inaugural coach left in the competition but a winless campaign in disrupted circumstances last season left both parties mutually agreeing on the decision following a review.

The Dragons fielded one of their strongest squads in 2020 but struggled to gel in the short three-week regular season, finishing last in a step backwards after winning the NRL Nines tournament last year. 

NRL.com understands the Dragons have narrowed Lacey's replacement down to three candidates with a decision expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

It's understood incumbent players are eager to find out the identity of their next coach before recommitting to the Red V with rival clubs monitoring the situation.

Match Highlights: Dragons v Warriors

Lacey was instrumental in ushering through the local talent at the Dragons but the club now faces several recruitment and retention decisions over their star-studded squad.

Of particular note, they will need to find a replacement for co-captain Sam Bremner after she announced her second pregnancy earlier this week. 

Dragons stalwart Stephanie Hancock has retired, while Elsie Albert has returned home to Papua New Guinea.

Rising Indigenous All Stars representatives Shaylee Bent and Jaime Chapman have also moved to the North Coast in the off-season with their futures up in the air, while Mahalia Murphy is back in rugby union.

In a boost, the Dragons are close to finalising their plans around the launch of a female player academy that will run alongside their male programs this season.

'Inspiring' Sam will be missed

Brad Donald's unlucky streak of not being able to coach Sam Bremner at the international level has now stretched into a fifth season.

Bremner broke the news to Donald earlier this week of her pregnancy, which will see her miss the remainder of the 2021 schedule.  

In 2017, Donald's first year in charge, Bremner suffered a concussion at captain's run in a freak accident the day before their Anzac Test match.

She then missed the Jillaroos' entire World Cup campaign due to a stress fracture in her leg before a toe injury ruled her out of their only 2018 Test match.

Her first pregnancy with son, Reef, saw her miss the entire 2019 schedule before last year's COVID-19 pandemic and now her second pregnancy means Donald will have to wait a little longer.

Sam Bremner shares a laugh with Warriors and Jillaroos oach Brad Donald in 2020.
Sam Bremner shares a laugh with Warriors and Jillaroos oach Brad Donald in 2020. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

"It's crazy to think about because she's still been a major fixture in all of our campaigns," Donald said.

"Sammy is unbelievable with what she does and the way she does it. She's an inspiring character who is willing to share her story and it's inspiring for the rest of us.

"I've sensed it in the past where female athletes have come up to the coach and apologised for being pregnant but now it's much more celebrated and rightfully so.

"Everyone understands how important it is in life. You don't have to put your life on hold to play sport. You can do both and Sammy is a great example of that.

"She's really keen to do some coaching and mentoring on the sidelines to keep her head in it and we're very keen to cater to that."

Donald has a plethora of talent to choose from in replacing Bremner at fullback this season with Tamika Upton, Botille Vette-Welsh and Corban McGregor among the candidates.

Match Highlights: Broncos v Roosters

Injuries strike NRLW pair

Premiership-winning Broncos duo Raecene McGregor and Jessica Elliston face anxious waits after both suffered potential long-term injuries on the weekend.

McGregor left the field early in the second half of club side Wests Tigers' 20-16 win over St Mary's last Sunday after re-dislocating her shoulder, just a fortnight after returning from the same injury.

She will meet with specialists this week before further results are known.

The news isn't so great for Elliston, who has undergone surgery for a ruptured syndesmosis in an injury that will sideline her for a lengthy period.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by JessikA Elliston (@jessikaelliston)

On the international front, England prop Charlotte Booth is also facing months on the sidelines after suffering a broken arm in the BHP Premiership.

Burleigh making a splash

Defending champions Burleigh have made a big statement early in the BHP Premiership by thumping the Brisbane Tigers 70-0 in their first club match on the weekend.

The addition of Tamika Upton to the already star-studded Bears outfit almost seemed unfair with the Broncos star among three players who crossed for hat-tricks in the romping win.

Coached by recently appointed Maroons coach Tahnee Norris, the Bears should face a much tougher test against the Tweed Seagulls this weekend in the XXXX rivalry round.

Tweed will be led by Broncos star Tarryn Aiken, who also grabbed a treble in round one last week, and Warriors NRLW captain Georgia Hale.

Zreika returns to 'real' sport

South Sydney welcomed GWS Giants AFLW star Haneen Zreika to the club last week with the former Bulldogs fullback making her Bunnies debut and returning to the code for the first time this season.

Zreika splits her time between playing AFL and rugby league, although her boyfriend Osman made it clear where her future should lie when presenting her debut jersey before the game.

"I know it's been a minute since you've been back playing a real sport, but I know you'll make us proud," Osman quipped.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by SSFC Womens Team (@ssfcwomen)

Zreika was the first person of Lebanese descent, and the first Muslim, to play in the AFLW and told NRL.com last year of her ambitions to play in the NRLW.

"I do hope it gets easier, and in time I know it will be a normal thing, that a girl that's Muslim is playing sport," Zreika said last year on NRL.com.

"My mum is my biggest supporter. She does not think that a girl playing sport is wrong. I'm pretty lucky I have a good support base. Hopefully one day I can play in the NRLW."

 

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARL Commission, NRL clubs or state associations.