St George Illawarra captain Kezie Apps hopes to overcome a broken hand to lead the undefeated Dragons in next Sunday’s top-of-the-table clash with three-times NRLW premiers Brisbane at CommBank Stadium.
Apps, centre Jaime Chapman and second-rower Talei Holmes were late withdrawals from the Dragons team that recorded the first shut-out by the Red V in their four seasons since joining the inaugural NRLW in 2018 to defeat Parramatta 10-0 in atrocious conditions at WIN Stadium.
The Broncos are the only other team still unbeaten after two rounds of the postponed 2021 Telstra NRL Women’s Premiership, with prop Millie Boyle shrugging off injury concerns to lead her side to a 28-10 defeat of Newcastle.
While the top sides go head-to-head next Sunday, the meeting of the winless Roosters and Knights on Saturday at the SCG will be equally significant as both teams seek to keep their finals hopes alive.
In a significant boost for the Red V, St George Illawarra coach Jamie Soward revealed that Apps was set to take her place in the front-row opposite close friend and representative team-mate, Boyle.
“Kez looks like she is going to be back next week,” Soward said. “I think Kez has just got to do a few things in terms of catching the ball and she should be right for next week.
“Talei had a broken hand, as well, but that looks like it is healing so it will depend on how it’s heals – probably Newcastle [in Round 4], and Chappo passed her HIA today so she will be in for next week.”
In the absence of Apps, 21-year-old Keeley Davis captained the Dragons for the first time and her leadership, along with rookie halfback Rachael Pearson and dual international Emma Tonegato, propelled the home team to a win Soward labelled their best ever.
“We just had to tighten up, keep things really simple, kick to the corners and defend hard, which we did really well,” Davis said. “Obviously there are areas our execution can be better, but it was great today to keep them to zero.”
Soward said a similar defensive resolve would be needed to beat the Broncos next Sunday.
“They are not the three-time champs for no reason. We have still got a lot to work on,” Soward said.
Dragons defence denies Daniels
“If you want to win it is important to have a good defensive record. The highest the Broncos have averaged in winning a comp is 11.7 [points conceded per game] so we need to be under that. Our average is six at the moment, so I can’t be happier.”
Brisbane coach Kelvin Wright said Boyle would be available for the clash with the Dragons and praised the star prop after she ran a game-high 192 metres with the ball against Newcastle.
"Millie is just very consistent and to be fair she was carrying a fair injury into today's game as well, so someone who wasn't quite as tough may have chosen not to play,” Wright said.
“We have got some really flashy players, but she does a lot of the hard stuff that people don't appreciate and had another solid performance. I didn't play her quite as much as we usually do but hopefully in the next couple of days she comes good.”
Millie Boyle opens the scoring
Roosters coach John Strange said captain Corban Baxter would return for next Saturday’s clash with the Knights after missing the opening two rounds due to COVID and he was confident halfback Raecene McGregor, who came from the field late in the 26-16 loss to the Titans would also be available.
“She has a sore lip and nose but she is pretty tough so she will be fine for next week," Strange said.
“We have got three games to go, this comp has been extended and if we win all three we will put ourselves in with a chance to be in the semis. Obviously, the plan was to win the first two games but it is must win next week and we go from there.
“We are going to have a couple of girls coming back from COVID next week. I had a phone call from Corban pretty much every day last week to tell me she was feeling good and could have pushed it but as a club we don’t want to do that.
“If Corban had played today, she may have been okay but if she was out there for 10 minutes and struggled with her lungs, knowing Corban she would have stayed out there and pushed through it so we are happy with the decision we made.
"She will be back next week and no doubt she will be a good inclusion for us.”