This article was first written for and published for The Roar.
We are exactly one week out from the first women’s State of Origin at North Sydney Oval.
When I sit in the grandstands and watch the New South Wales Blues and Queensland Maroons run onto the field under Friday night lights, I will be watching history and another giant step forward in the development of the women’s game.
While this may be the first State of Origin, it is certainly not the beginning of the rivalry between the NSW and Queensland women. A state vs state type contest has been played for almost 20 years.
Before being rebranded as State of Origin last year when the NRL made its announcement about developments in the women’s game, women took part in an ‘Interstate Challenge’ once a year.
I had no idea this contest existed up until three years ago, and it’s probably for the best that I didn’t know about it, because for the first 17 years Queensland dominated and won every single time these two teams met led by women like Karen Murphy, Stephanie Hancock and Ali Brigginshaw.
It was only two years ago that NSW won for the first time in a thrilling 8-4 win. The Blues backed it up last year too with a convincing 22-6 win, with Jessica Sergis scoring a hat trick on debut.
But the build-up this year has been different and part of that is certainly to do with the rebrand.
Do not underestimate the power of words.
It is significant that his contest has been rebranded so that it is named in the same way as the men’s contest.
This game will be stand alone. It will not exist as a curtain raiser to a men’s game. When people come to North Sydney next Friday night they will be coming to watch women play rugby league. There are posters all around the North Sydney area featuring Kezie Apps and Meg Ward which is very new for this contest.
Additionally, this game will be televised live on Channel Nine. Another big step considering that just two years ago, Australian Jillaroos games were being broadcast on Nine on delay.
Following the Blues dominance in this contest over the last couple of years, some fans may be expecting the same this year. But we have an exciting contest on our hands, particularly because the Blues have a couple of injury concerns.
The most significant of those concerns is Blues and Jillaroos captain Ruan Sims who has been ruled out of this clash with a wrist injury. In her place, Maddie Studdon will captain the Blues for the first time.
Additionally, Cairlin Moran will also be unavailable for the Blues because she is out with an ACL injury. There are also injury clouds over Simaima Taufa and Nakia Davis-Welsh.
On the other side of the border, Queensland have named six debutants for this clash including Meg Ward, one of the latest recruits for the Brisbane Broncos and a woman who burst onto the scene last year after being selected to represent the Jillaroos at the Rugby League World Cup.
The other Queensland debutants are Maitua Feterika, captain of the Burleigh Bears Tallisha Harden, Mariah Storch, Frieda Faulato Seu and Rhiannon Revell-Blair.
Stephanie Hancock also seems to have pushed her retirement back one more year to compete in the contest one last time.
Ahead of this clash, I would like to encourage as many of you as possible to get out to North Sydney Oval to experience a wonderful night of rugby league.
There are not many places I like to watch women’s sport at more than North Sydney Oval and with tickets at just $10 for adults and free entry for kids, the excuse of ‘it’s too expensive to take the family to State of Origin’ simple doesn’t wash.
Following this contest, the countdown really is on to the beginning of the inaugural women’s competition and over the last two weeks we have seen clubs begin to announce signings.
So far, the St George Illawarra Dragons have snared Sammy Bremner, Kezie Apps, Talesha Quinn, Rikeya Horns, Jessica Sergis, Honey Hireme and Raecene McGregor.
The Brisbane Broncos have Ali Brigginshaw, Chelsea Baker, Heather Ballinger, Brittany Breayley, Teuila Fotu-Moala, Caitlin Moran, Tallisha Harden, Kody House and Meg Ward.
The New Zealand Warriors and Sydney Roosters are yet to sign any players, but I am hearing some whispers that the Roosters are not far away from signing Ruan Sims.
Expect plenty more news in the coming weeks.
Amelia Kerr makes history
We may be right in the middle of rugby league season, but I also wanted to acknowledge Amelia Kerr who this week put international women’s cricket back on the map when she set a new world batting record in women’s ODI cricket with an unbeaten 232 against Ireland in Dublin in an innings with 31 fours and 2 sixes.
Most interesting about this young woman is that she is only 17 years old and is not actually best known for her batting. Amelia is a leg spinner and also managed to take 5-17 with ball in hand to help see Ireland bowled out for 135.
The record was held by Australian legend Belinda Clark with an unbeaten 229* against Denmark back in 1997 (a couple of years before Amelia was even born).
How soon before we can get her in the WBBL?