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Dragons coach Jamie Soward hopes the competitive nature he had in his playing career will rub off on his NRLW side as he prepares to finalise his side for the season opener against Gold Coast.

Soward said he felt like a "proud dad" watching several of his Dragons players star in the Harvey Norman All Stars clash last week with their performances providing a boost for the team ahead of their round one trip to Newcastle.

For Soward, who won a premiership at the Dragons in 2010, the chance to coach the NRLW side after accepting a role under Anthony Griffin this season has provided him with a new perspective in the game.

"I didn't expect to not love it but I probably didn't expect to love coaching the girls this much," Soward told

"They're a great bunch and I couldn't have asked for a better group to buy in and take a bit of my persona.

"I was a super competitive guy who went out there and tried my hardest each game. That's all I want of the girls. I don't want them to beat themselves, I want them to give themselves the best chance.

"I've played against some of the future immortals of our game and you can't go into games worrying too much about what they're going to do. You must focus on your own job.

Soward pleased after finalising NRLW squad

"That's the main message I've relayed across to the girls. The older players like Kezie Apps, I think she will relish a different person to challenge her this year."

Apps is one of eight players who remain from the Dragons' 2020 squad with 12 potential debutantes and four new recruits. 

Among the debutantes includes former Australian rugby sevens star Emma Tonegato, who is likely to start at fullback for the Dragons.

The 26-year-old is likely to line up against Olympic gold medal teammate Evania Pelite in the season opener on February 27.

"Not that she's ever had an ego but the thing I like most about Emma is she's put the fact she's an Olympic gold medal winner aside to come into a part-time environment and learn a new position," Soward said.

"She's been very professional and is leading the way in things like recovery. She's been way more impressive than I could've ever expected.

"We had a chat before Christmas about what she wanted to achieve in the NRLW and she's doing everything possible to be the best in the game."

Soward was also honest with his assessment of key halves Rachael Pearson and Taliah Fuimaono ahead of round one.

Tonegato 'super excited' for NRLW challenge

"I've probably been pretty hard on Rach," he said. "There are certain girls I had some honest conversations with and Rach is in that category.

"I believe she's ready to arrive on this stage and take control of this team and Fui is the perfect player to complement that.

"I came through with Ricky Stuart and I although I probably do need to learn to pull back sometimes I think Rat (Pearson) and Fui (Fuimaono) will tell you we're all on the same page."


Tickets are now on sale for the NRLW season. Ticket prices start at just $12 for adults, and juniors under 15 can redeem a free general admission ticket with any paying adult. Visit

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