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The Broader Game: Jeffries on PNG, Boyle sets new record

Newly appointed PNG Orchids coach Ben Jeffries believes nothing will challenge him more than the opportunity to coach the women's national side at the rescheduled 2021 World Cup.

Fresh off a victory with the women's Indigenous All Stars side in February, Jeffries has shifted his focus to searching for 24 players who will take the Orchids into their second world tournament.

"I've only ever been to Papua New Guinea once and it was a wild experience," Jeffries says.

"You fly in and get guarded at the hotel, they line up down the streets, they just live and breathe rugby league. I can only imagine what this opportunity will bring."

From the chance to coach mothers and teenagers who have never flown on a plane to helping players adapt to culture shock and the weather, Jeffries is preparing for everything ahead of choosing his Orchids squad.

"That's the challenge, for me to get good staff around me that I can trust and get in the right direction for these girls," Jeffries said.

"I don't have a PNG background but my role is to educate and get everyone to another level.

"I had 10 years in England playing and when the opportunity came to put my name forward.

"Taking a group away for three weeks, and possibly training as a team before that will offer so many different challenges."

Ben Jeffries in the 2022 Indigenous Women's All Stars camp
Ben Jeffries in the 2022 Indigenous Women's All Stars camp ©NRL Photos

Jeffries plans to turn to local talent to make up the squad and is hoping to have some come to Australia and play in the NSW and Queensland state competitions if possible.

"There's so much untapped potential in PNG. It's about trying to give them an opportunity and compete at the international level but also helping them off the field.

"Elsie Albert is a good example and Therese Aiton has been in Australia for a long time.

"There's also a lot already in Queensland and across Australia so if we can have a good mix it will be valuable," Jeffries said.

"To put it in perspective, most of the PNG girls we pick will be star-struck by playing and meeting someone like Elsie so it's about channelling all that emotion and putting it out on the field. 

"I'd love to get us to the semi-finals stage."

Triple-header an instant hit

The opening round of the NRLW brought the big hits and flashy tries on the field but generated plenty of interest off it.

A crowd of over 5000 made it the largest attended for a regular round standalone fixture to date for the NRLW while television ratings on Nine (268k) and Fox Sports (69k) outranked several other programs.

With no NRL trials and a second standalone triple-header scheduled for Sunday, those figures are only likely to climb in another win for exposure of the women's game.

Studdon clutch when it counts

Three clubs take injury hit

The Broncos, Roosters and Knights suffered most in the opening round of the NRLW with four players set to be sidelined.

Broncos pair Julia Robinson (cheekbone) and Nakita Sao (knee) will miss this weekend's clash against Newcastle with Robinson to undergo surgery this week.

The Broncos are hopeful Robinson could return for the semi-finals or grand final if the team makes it. 

Newcastle will be without inspirational forward Caitlan Johnston for 4-6 weeks due to an elbow injury.

Roosters winger Taylor Mapusua will miss at least a week due to a nasty cut above her eye but are hopeful Corban Baxter and Sam Economos will be late inclusions after missing last week's game due to COVID-19.

Knights prop Caitlan Johnston.
Knights prop Caitlan Johnston. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

Newcastle's growth sky-rockets

The Knights may have lost by a point to start their maiden NRLW campaign but have plenty of reasons to smile for the development occurring in the Hunter.

With the commencement of female tackle in Newcastle six years ago, the region is seeing positive growth in participation and pathway opportunities.

In 2017, there were only 93 registered junior girls tackle rugby league players in the Newcastle and Maitland region. In 2021 that number grew to 701 for a 605 percent growth over five years.

In 2022, junior girls participation is on track to grow again by another 15 percent.

In the senior playing ranks, there are also another 715 registered players in the Newcastle and Maitland region. This number is also on track to grow a further 15 percent in 2022.

NRLW Teams: Knights v Broncos

Aspiring referees to take note

WIN Stadium will play host to over 40 aspiring female referees this weekend as part of the NRL's WILOP program, which focuses on developing the next generation of female match officials.

The ladies will attend a seminar on Saturday with skills and education sessions around fitness, resilience and building confidence in their craft.

The attendees will also be able to listen to audio of leading referees Belinda Sharpe, Kasey Badger and Karra-Lee Nolan, who will officiate the triple headers for a second week in a row.

"It's an exciting time for the girls to be able to come into a referees' development camp but then go and see it in practice and see what it's like," Badger said.

"Hopefully this is that little be extra offered that keeps them interested because it can be a tough journey to be a referee, we all recognise that."

Sharpe said it was an exciting time for females across the game and was proud to be among the women leading the way.

"I think the NRL has done a great job in the last few years in not only celebrating women's in rugby league but encouraging more female involvement in the game," she said.

"Refereeing is a part of that and it's exciting to see how many are involved in the game. We want to continue that trend. To be able to demonstrate that and show there is a pathway to a full-time career is exciting."

NRL referee Kasey Badger.
NRL referee Kasey Badger. ©Robb Cox/NRL Photos

Boyle sets new record

Broncos forward Millie Boyle capped off a dominant display last week by recording the most metres by a player in NRLW history.

Boyle's 223 running metres surpassed the previous record set by Jess Sergis (213) in 2019.

The 23-year-old brushed aside a cut to her chin in the opening half to return and play the entire second period, scoring her first try of the season.

Boyle scores after a fantastic effort from Upton

Extra minutes prove winner

Players and coaches were happy with their first hit-outs on Sunday considering most hadn't played a match in close to eight months and the additional 10 minutes of play helped bring further fatigue into the game.

Several players across the six teams struggled with cramp in the final stages of clashes but will be better for the run

Under the original 60-minute outings, Maddie Studdon's field goal would've been slotted in golden point while the Titans and Dragons each traded tries in the final 10 minutes.

The Broncos were kept scoreless by a gallant Roosters outfit in the final 30 minutes but did themselves no favours with only a 58% completion rate.

Studdon goes viral

Maddie Studdon slotted the first-ever NRLW field goal against the Knights on Sunday but it was her goal-kicking effort with the assistance of Nita Maynard that has generated the most interest across the NRL's social media platforms this week.

Studdon, who was lining up a conversion in the 53rd minute, was having trouble with the wind causing havoc before Maynard offered a helping hand.

The footage so far has generated over a million views on TikTok and a further million across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. 

A video of Dragons winger Teagan Berry sprinting down the sideline during an under 18s Origin match in 2019 still holds the record for the women's platforms, however, with 13 million on Facebook alone.

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Be there at WIN Stadium on Sunday for the round two of the NRLW. Ticket prices start at just $12 for adults, and juniors under 15 can redeem a free general admission ticket with any paying adult. Visit


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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