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The Broader Game:  Hanisi, Cherrington sisters chasing rare double

If you tune into the under 19s State of Origin clash on Friday night before the main event you could be forgiven for seeing double.

The entrée to the main course promises to be just as competitive after both Queensland under 19s sides beat NSW's next generation at the National Championships last month.

Part of the Blues' quest for a double act of redemption will start with Fatefehi Hanisi and Rueben Cherrington leading the charge for NSW in the curtain-raiser at Sunshine Coast Stadium.  

Hanisi took out player of the Tarsha Gale Cup final with St George in 2019 and is destined to follow older sister Filomina Hanisi onto higher honours in the next 12 months.

"Fatafehi is quiet and shy but once she's comfortable she'll open up," Filomina told

"She's worked very hard behind the scenes, especially because she's the youngest sibling so when we're doing extras she's getting bashed with defence through me and my older sister [Tangikina].

"We're all our own person. It's all paying off for her."

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Cherrington, the younger sister of Sky Blues debutante Kennedy Cherrington, has made plenty of sacrifices on her way to an interstate debut of her own on the Sunshine Coast.

The Cherrington family grew up in western Sydney before moving to Perth with the sisters forging a sporting path through rugby union.

Kennedy's successful transition back to rugby league has inspired Rueben to do the same with the family now set for a permanent move to Sydney to help accommodate the pair's journeys.

Rueben is taller than Kennedy but predominantly plays at hooker.

"It's a great opportunity for Ruebs," Kennedy said.  

"She's been flying in and out from Perth all year to play Tarsha Gale Cup and my parents have been sacrificing out of their own pockets to give her a crack like this.

"It's a good stepping stone before they all move back over in December for good when she graduates year 12.

"We're both very proud of our sisters. It's pretty cool to get to play after them. It was a credit to our families who keep us humble in the background."

Staying humble is a phrase Cherrington has built her game on despite being known to get under the skin of her opponents through her playing ways.

Coincidentally, the 2020 NRLW rookie of the year doesn't have to look far for inspiration in that department with childhood friend Jarome Luai one of the best doing so in the NRL.

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"It's the energy and the vibe, not cockiness, just confidence," she said.

"You want to be at your best you've got to leave everything out. Romey and I grew up playing touch together until I moved to Perth. I know his family and partner well.

"I ask him for advice all the time with how he can help my game and stuff around pressure. He's at the top of his game."

If Jarome's Origin debut was anything to go by, Kennedy's in a good place ahead of her maiden appearance in sky blue.

After missing the final 17 in last year's match, the 22-year-old will come off the bench and look to add an impact.

"It's been really rewarding that my hard work has paid off in the past four months," she said.

"I want to come on and bring some energy. They were tough last year, a tough team, but this year it's about redemption, baby."

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For Filomina, Cherrington describes her as the total oppositie.

"A quiet achiever who works hard in the background," she said.

"She's crazy, her work rate. She's experienced and hopefully we as forwards can help her."

Hanisi said last year's loss on debut was something to build on.

"It's very different ... when they say Origin is a different level it really is," she said.

"Everyone takes it personal. It's tough for both teams to be consistent with strong carries.

"You don't want anyone coming through the middle so it becomes personal."

The under 19s curtain-raiser will be live-streamed on from 5.15pm.

NRL referee Belinda Sharpe.
NRL referee Belinda Sharpe.

History created with all-female officials 

In an historic move, the Ampol Women's State of Origin match will be officiated by an all-female on-field team on Friday night in a first for an elite NRL, NRLW or Origin match. 

Leading NRL official Belinda Sharpe will referee the match for the third time in her career, while rising pair Kailey Beattie and Karra-Lee Nolan will make their debut at the Origin level. 

Both Beattie and Nolan are products of the WILOP program

"This is a fantastic result for the game and testament to the strong pathways of female officiating," NRL general manager of elite officiating, Jared Maxwell said.

"We have some fantastic female officials being developed and to see Kailey and Karra-Lee join Belinda from their respective state leagues will be a significant step forward for women’s officiating in general.

"One of our key focuses has been the creation of genuine pathways for our female officials and it has been a strong growth area for us.

"Belinda is experienced at this level and no doubt in part responsible for the increasing numbers of female officials being developed.

"All three of these exceptional officials deserve to officiate at the highest level."

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NSW competition set for overhaul

The Harvey Norman NSW Premiership is set for changes to the format next season with the likely demotion of clubs and a revamp of the draw.

A fortnight after Maroons captain Ali Brigginshaw labelled the BHP structure as "stronger" than south of the border, it's understood NSWRL officials had already discussed possible changes for 2022.

Queensland's BHP Premiership wrapped up a fortnight ago, while NSW's senior competition won't finish until the end of July, when most top-line players will be required to attend pre-season training at NRLW clubs.

Cabramatta, Glebe and Wentworthville struggled throughout the regular season, recording just two wins between them, in a concern for competition organisers.

The Rabbitohs were on a similar path but finished their campaign on a strong note with four wins in the final six weeks of the competition. 

They've also signalled their intentions to push for an NRLW club in the future following the announcement of a Tarsha Gale Cup side (under 19s) set to help accommodate their senior squad from next season.

The Knights also have plans to bring a HNWP side in 2022, two years after CRL Newcastle won the title in 2019 before folding last season. 

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Eels, Knights add leading women to coaching roster

Parramatta are set to announce Kate Mullaly as an assistant coach to Dean Widders for the NRLW this season in another boost for the western Sydney franchise.

Mullally coached the under 19s NSW City side this season and will only add to a coaching staff that has strong knowledge in the women's game.

Former NSW coach Andrew Patmore will oversee the NRLW structure, while highly-respected Mounties coach Darrin Borthwick is also on board.

The Knights have secured First Nation's Gems coach Jess Skinner for their maiden campaign, while Alicia-Kate Hawke will remain at the Dragons. 


Women’s Origin tickets are on sale via NRL Tickets. Supporters can watch the historic match from just $5 for juniors, $15 for adults and $35 for families.

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

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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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