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The Broader Game: Feeney's blueprint for instant success

When Titans CEO Steve Mitchell was told the club would field an NRLW side this season he didn't have to search far for high-quality coaching candidates.

Maroons coach Tahnee Norris had just led Burleigh to the BHP Premiership title while Jamie Feeney's move to Queensland for a teaching job at Marsden State High had him also in contention.

That duo will now lead the Titans in their inaugural season and play an important part in establishing the club as an NRLW force.

"I took a hit last year when I finished coaching with the Roosters, losing a pathways job at the NRL," Feeney told The Broader Game.

"The move to Queensland for teaching was huge for my wife and young family but has worked out well.

Karina Brown joins the Titans

"It's now given me an opportunity to take on another NRLW program and the excitement for me is starting it from scratch.

"The advantage for that is you can set the standards, get the girls together and ask what we're willing to accept.

"It's a lot easier than coming into a program and trying to raise the standards or change a culture.

"I feel we did that well at the Roosters last year and there's pride in that jersey again but now I'm able to build from scratch and with Tahnee, that's what I'm most excited about."

Feeney is not one to beat around the bush.

He conceded several marquee players knocked back offers to join the Titans under the NRL's centralised contract system. Some of those players have since re-signed with the Broncos.

Titans signing Tazmin Gray.
Titans signing Tazmin Gray. ©Jason O'Brien/NRL Photos

He got one player out of five first offered, Maroons forward and Gold Coast local, Tazmin Gray.

"Some had lucrative offers from other clubs and made decisions to go and they're basing decisions on what's best for them at the moment so that's fine," Feeney said.

"The other four we ended up signing and it's much to my delight, knocked back other offers because they wanted to be Titans.

"They're the type of people we want at our club, people who want to represent our community and the Titans.

"With all the talent here, I think it just shows we really needed another team in Queensland. The NRL have made the right choice to geographically spread the new sides.

"Newcastle, Central Coast and the Illawarra regions are three of the biggest rugby league participation for the NSWRL.

In footy and in life, be there for an offload

"They're good strategic decisions and up here there's a lot of female participation on the Gold Coast.

"It creates a pathway from South-East Brisbane to the northern regions of NSW. The girls come in from junior football and progress through to the JTS programs at the Titans."

Despite a focus on their catchment areas, Feeney has also looked at other regions for players.

"We'll have a competitive squad," he said. "We're not going to just be making up the numbers."

Ali Brigginshaw and the Broncos celebrate a third straight NRLW title.
Ali Brigginshaw and the Broncos celebrate a third straight NRLW title. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

Decision pending

The structure of the NRL Telstra Women's Premiership remains under review following the COVID-19 outbreak in Sydney.

All teams were due to begin pre-season training this week but that has been delayed.

The NRL's relocating of 12 clubs to Queensland in the past few days has understandably been the priority. Further updates on the status of the women's competition will follow next week.

NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said earlier this week the situation was a "huge challenge" to overcome.

"We're working on it actively and I would imagine in the next week, be able to provide some clarity on what a revised NRLW would look like," he said.

NRLW signing Brooke Walker.
NRLW signing Brooke Walker. ©NRL Photos

AFLW duo land NRLW deals

AFLW players Brooke Walker and Paige Parker will be the latest converts to join the NRLW this season after signing with new franchises.

Walker made her senior debut in rugby league for Victoria at the National Championships in May and showed glimpses of her talent after previously playing rugby sevens and touch football.

She's expected to join Parramatta while Parker, who was de-listed by the Gold Coast Suns in June, has joined her new teammates at Newcastle.

Parker is an Australian touch football representative who played for Brisbane Broncos in the NRL Touch Premiership in 2018-2019.

Roosters-Mounties grand final hope

The NSWRL remains hopeful of the Harvey Norman NSW Premiership grand final between Central Coast Roosters and Mounties going ahead before the start of the NRLW season.

An extended two-week lockdown for greater Sydney was enforced by the NSW government this week but NSWRL officials are yet to call the match off.

Several players from both sides have signed with NRLW clubs and would need approval to play if the game eventuates.

Women's league player Roxy Murdoch.
Women's league player Roxy Murdoch. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

Murdoch's Roosters headache

They say a week is a long time in rugby league and for Roxy Murdoch it appears her NRLW dream at the Roosters could be over before it begins.

The wife of Warriors forward Ben Murdoch-Masila, Roxy was unveiled as a new signing for the Roosters' NRLW squad last week but the men's competition shift to Queensland has put her future under a cloud.

The couple have a daughter, Acacia, to raise while Ben plays at least the next month of the NRL season in Queensland.

Unless the NRLW also shifts north or Murdoch plays for either the Broncos or Titans, it's a cruel end for the former Warrington forward.

"Having to relocate to Queensland and the borders shut to NSW I won't be able to travel between states," Murdoch said this week.

"I never knew it would upset me as much as it is. I remember the days when I lived in the UK and watched the NRLW comp start and grow each year."

 

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