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Updated: Feb 25, 2022

By Brontee Fulton - Real Talk journalist


It’s been 490 days between seasons, but finally the delayed 2021 NRLW season kicks off this Sunday. The league welcomes the Newcastle Knights, Parramatta Eels and Gold Coast Titans into the six team competition and with the introduction of marquee players and a points cap system. It’s seen the league’s biggest stars split up across 24 player squads, with the addition of exciting rookies, code switches and even Olympians.


Foundation club, the Sydney Roosters will aim to go one step further in 2021, after a heartbreaking defeat to the Brisbane Broncos in the 2020 grand final. They’ve signed some of the league’s biggest names to assist them on that quest.


2019 Dally M medal winner and NRLW poster girl, Jess Sergis will live out her childhood dream donning the tri-colours, after playing the past three seasons for Dragons. Combining in the centres with fellow Australian representative and powerhouse Isabelle Kelly, the pair pose a threat to every opposition especially when their speedy skipper and fullback Corban McGregor is behind in support.


The club’s pathways team the Central Coast Roosters has produced a multitude of young talent who will be on show in the NRLW this season and one certain to make her mark is Jocelyn Kelleher. A versatile half, Kelleher spent her 2020 season alternating between the centres and back row and later finding her groove in halfback. She’ll make her debut in round one and representing the famous Roosters number 7 jersey will bring it’s fair share of pressure.


Raecene McGregor, a great last minute pick up for Sydney and for the halfback. The Maori All Star was a standout in earlier NRLW seasons for the Broncos and Dragons. 18th woman for round one, but expect to see her find a spot in the 17 before the end of the fixture.


The Eels have certainly recruited well, securing a mix of upcoming talent and experienced campaigners. The emerging side have more than just a squad behind them, managing to sell out all apparel sponsorship in their inaugural season too!


Botille Vette-Welsh, remember the name! Parramatta Head Coach Dean Widders gave her the nod at fullback after making the move from the Dragons. A skillful talent who makes her work look effortless. Kennedy Cherrington is another marquee signing for the Eels who brings much more than just aggression up front. A hard hitting forward, the young gun can rattle her opponents physically and mentally.


Abbi Church booted up for her first game of rugby league in 2019, fast forward 3 years and she is in the starting line up for the inaugural Eels side. Having represented Australia in touch football, Church will hit the ground running in the outside backs.


Eels have recruited heavily from the Roosters, 5 of their starting 17 made the move East to West. Maddie Studdon has found herself a lifeline, named as the starting halfback. The NSW and Australian 7 will hope to redeem herself with clever playmaking skills and look to improve her kicking game.


Leading the league on and off the field, the Broncos have gone 3 from 3 in the NRLW. Believe it or not they’ve had a 50% turnover, but their line up is still stacked and showing no signs of slowing down.


The Broncos are home to some of the NRLW’s most dominant players, Captain and Dally M Medallist Ali Briginshaw will demand attention once again this season as she looks to lead her side to their 4th straight title. The halfback is joined by try-scoring machine Tamika Upton, who racked up 5 last season as well as the most running metres in the league at 553. Julia Robinson is another who has been the benchmark in preseason. The 24 year old continues to develop every season on the wing and is the first Bronco to run the 1.2km time trial in sub 5 minutes.


Head Coach Kelvin Wright knows how to find talent, Queensland Red Emily Bass has made the wing spot her own and will debut Round 1, alongside Toowoomba’s touch talent Jada Ferguson who also burst onto the scene in the Queensland Under 19’s State of Origin.


Kaitlyn Phillips will face her old side straight up. The second-rower has played in the Prime Minister’s XIII and Indigenous All Stars. We haven’t seen the best of the 24 year old in the NRLW yet, but from all reports 2022 sounds like it will be her year.


An unsettled start to their 2021 campaign, a number of Knights players were caught up in serious border restrictions complications during the COVID lockdown. Not a pleasant experience for their New Zealand talent, however they’ve returned to play for Newcastle and with a mighty Kiwi Ferns pack on the team list, they’ll be hard to tackle.


Former New Zealand Warrior and International hooker Krystal Rota headlines the side, her work ethic is unmatched and has been one of the most consistent forwards in the NRLW. Charntay Poko turned heads in 2019 with her kicking game, she’ll move from half to lock this season and expect to see much of the same.


Autumn-Rain Stephens and Tahlulah Tillett will both make their debuts in the halves in the season opener. The pair have played All Stars and didn’t look a beat out of place. The duo earned their spots at 6 and 7 respectively after an impressive preseason. Time will tell if they can match it with the best in the business.


The Knights have secured a hard-hitting forward in Caitlin Johnson, forming part of the club’s inaugural leadership group. The Nat Dwyer medalist has experience on both edges and in the middle. A Belmont resident, Johnson is not only a favourite for her footy skills, but also with the fans.

QRLW’s inaugural player of the year Romy Teitzel was unveiled as the Knights match captain. The fullback’s attractive style makes her another woman to watch.


The Dragons results haven’t reflected their talented team lists over past seasons, however this year the Red V appear to be the hardest hit in recruitment. Many of their big names including Jessica Sergis, Isabelle Kelly, Maddie Studdon and Ellie Johnston have fled the ‘Gong’ for greener pastures, but nonetheless have filed an impressive side, steered by former Dragon Jamie Soward.


The side’s Captain, Kezie Apps is sure to be an anchor point in a relatively inexperienced side. The Australian Jillaroo has shifted from back row to middle in 2022 which could be one of the best moves. Being dubbed ‘quick-step’, is certainly no insult to Quincy Dodd who has made the move down south this year. Like her nickname, the hooker is incredibly fast out of the ruck and no doubt her famous dummy-half tries will be on show. Holli Wheeler is finally back from injury and we haven’t seen this wrecking ball since NRL Nines when she unfortunately ruptured her ACL. But after plenty of time in rehab, the NSW Origin forward will be out to impress ahead of Australian selections for the Rugby League World Cup.


Rachel Pearson is certainly all in, moving 700km to chase her NRLW dream. The halfback reportedly fended offers from multiple clubs. Pearson has had an impressive breakout 12 months, earning NSW Country honours and captaining her Helensburgh Tigers to a remarkable finals berth in the NSW Women's Premiership.

In an exciting code switch, Australian Rugby Sevens Olympian Emma Tonegato makes an exciting return to rugby league. The last time Tonegato had the steeden in hand was as an Australian Jillaroo at the 2013 World Cup where she bagged herself a hat trick.


New Zealand international Madison Bartlett, has made the move to St George this season, the winger will play an important role in the Red V’s backline. Kody House was all but done with the game until the International utility rekindled her love for the sport in the QRLW. The Maroon was highly recommended by peers and after a few phone calls, House found a home with the Dragons. The Queenslander replaces Shontelle Stowers who pulled out due to personal reasons.


A new side means new names and with 13 debutants in the side, the Titans may lack experience, but talent is not up for question. The squad boasts a mix of upcoming talent and experienced campaigners, there is no denying the inaugural side will come out firing.


Coming off a player of the match performance in the 2021 State of Origin match, Tazmin Gray will suit up in her 4th jersey, in as many seasons, The second-rower has had an impressive preseason and will bring a real x-factor to the side.

Marquee player, Karina Brown lives in Brisbane, but will call the Gold Coast home. Brown has played a pivotal role in building local QLD clubs - Burleigh Bears and Easts Tigers and will look to have the same impact on her Titans teammates. A role model on and off the field, former Warriors Captain and 2020 Young New Zealander, Georgia Hale is certainly no stranger to success. Having played all 3 NRLW seasons at the Warriors, Hale has moved across the ditch and expect plenty of punch off the bench from this talented forward.


It's written in the name, Destiny Brill was born to play rugby league, but has certainly gone about it an unorthodox way. Only 18 years at the time, Brill was eligible to play in the 2021 State of Origin curtain raiser, but instead stole the show in the main event. Dubbed "the little wombat", Brill burrowed over the line to score on debut and all before she’d played a game in the NRLW. After spending the 2020 season on the Broncos bench, Zara Cranfield will finally get some game time, as she looks to make her NRLW debut this weekend at number 11. Dominating in the QRLW season, Cranfield averages over 100m per game - a great pickup from the Titans.


The Titans have also secured gold medal standard in Rugby 7s Olympian, Evania Pelite. Pelite’s debut season for the NZ Warriors back in 2018 saw her rack up 3 tries, 2 try assists and 22 tackles in just 4 appearances. With a positional switch to fullback, it will give this speedster even more room to tear up her opposition, watch this space.Brittany Breayley-Nati has a whole lot to look forward to this season, the club’s inaugural captain will have the chance to play alongside her wife, Kimiora Breayley-Nati who is returning from a season-ending heart condition. Kimiora has since been given the all clear from medical staff. The pair have both played for the Broncos and Dragons, bringing experience to the lineup.

It's safe to say the NRLW season will be a standout promising to bring big hits, nail biting finishers and all round quality footy - stay tuned for all the news, updates and stories right here at Real Talk Media.

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