St George Illawarra team-mates have backed rookie playmaker Rachael Pearson for State of Origin selection as she prepares to go head-to-head with NSW halfback Maddie Studdon in Sunday’s NRLW match against Parramatta at WIN Stadium.
Pearson, who made a stunning NRLW debut in last Sunday’s 20-12 defeat of the Titans, narrowly missed a place in last year’s Blues squad but Dragons players say she is ready for Origin.
“Definitely.” Jillaroos and Blues utility Keeley Davis said when asked if Pearson was worthy of an Origin jersey. “She is a great half, and she has got a big future in the game.
“I think her kicking game is probably one of the best I have played with and for her to take control the way she did in the first game of her career goes to show how much of a leader she is and how good she can be.
NRLW Teams: Dragons v Eels
“Rat’ is a down to earth, humble girl, who obviously works really hard and she is a cool, calm head on the field. I think she is going to go from strength to strength. She has taken this pressure on so well, so I am just excited to see how she goes this weekend.”
Pearson’s eight kicks against the Knights gained 260 metres for the Dragons and included a forced goal-line drop out, while she ran the ball on 11 occasions and produced four tackle breaks to earn the No.7 jersey ahead of Studdon and Broncos captain Ali Brigginshaw in the NRWL team of the week.
“Rachel was the outstanding player on the weekend. Her whole performance was good,” St George Illawarra hooker Quincy Dodd said. “She has got a natural kicking game and she has been taught off [Dragons coach] Jamie Soward, who was a great kicker, so I am glad I get to play alongside her.”
However, Soward said the 28-year-old, who grew up playing soccer, AFL and league-tag, deserved the credit for the way she has developed her kicking game.
“She has got probably one of the most natural drops of the ball, with kicking it, that I have ever seen – and that is both men or women,” Soward said “I was really happy for 'Rat'. She is under a lot of pressure this year. She didn’t know if she was ready for NRLW, or higher honours, but I think she does now.”
Studdon, who steered the Eels to an historic 13-12 defeat of the Knights with a late field goal in their first NRLW match, edged out Pearson for the NSW No.7 jersey last year by starring opposite her City’s 40-16 triumph against Country.
The former Jillaroos playmaker welcomed another challenge from Pearson for her Origin position and said she was looking forward to Sunday’s clash.
“It’s healthy competition, everyone is pushing to be the best,” Studdon said. “It keeps you on your toes and you’ve just got to keep striving to get selected. It’s good for the women’s game.
“There’s a lot of good halves coming through. We’ve watched a little bit of her clips playing for the Dragons and she was good. She’s a fantastic player and has a good kicking game. We’re really going to have to work hard to shut her down and all their other players.”