This article was first written for and published by the Roar.
One of the biggest challenges with the NRLW is the length of the season.
There are important reasons for a four-week season, but what it means for the teams competing is that they do not have the same opportunity that exists in the men’s game to build momentum.
It is make or break from the moment the competition starts. This has its challenges, especially considering the massive turnover at clubs, with 40 per cent of the players that competed last year not competing this year.
Because of this, it means that there are two big match ups this weekend and depending on the results, we could (unfortunately) have the grand finalists for season two locked in after just Round 2.
It’s clear that the standard has lifted in season two. In particular I was impressed with the levels of fitness across the board.
Brisbane Broncos v Sydney Roosters: 5.05pm on Saturday at AAMI Park
Quite incredibly, in the history of the NRLW, the Brisbane Broncos still remain undefeated after a comprehensive 14-4 win over the St George Illawarra Dragons in week one.
Despite the Broncos having lost the most amount of players leading into season two including the likes of Teuila Fotu-Moala, Brittany Breayley and Maitua Feterkia, what the Broncos have done very well is identify the next generation of talent coming through including the likes of Amber Hall and Millie Boyle who were both impressive in last weekend’s win.
As for the Roosters, they were beaten 16-12 by the Warriors (who were my stand out team in week one).
Given the teams each now have one game under their belt, I’m expecting this to be a high-quality game of rugby league and for some of the kinks in the Roosters attack to be ironed out.
Roosters halves Kira Dibb and Simone Smith have an up-hill battle ahead of them, up against Raecene McGregor and the very experienced Ali Brigginshaw.
There are key match ups all over the field including the battle of the fullbacks between Australian Jillaroos Chelsea Baker and Corban McGregor and veterans Steph Hancock and Rebecca Young battling it out in the forwards.
I’m tipping the Broncos to win this game, partly because of the strength of their forward pack, but given the inexperience of Kirra Dibb and Simone Smith in the halves, I’m backing Ali Brigginshaw to ensure that the Broncos remain undefeated.
A couple of players to watch include Roosters captain Simaima Taufa through the middle and Isabelle Kelly on the edge. Both are potent attacking players with Taufa scoring both of the Roosters’ tries last weekend. For the Broncos, I can’t go past Millie Boyle who has been one of the break out stars in women’s rugby league this year.
New Zealand Warriors v St George Illawarra Dragons: 1.15pm on Sunday at Mt Smart Stadium
This game will be a big one for the Warriors given that this is the first time that this women’s team will get the opportunity to play in front of a home crowd. This is the first of two stand alone games this season and gives footy fans the chance to vote with their feet and show their support for the women’s game.
I have no doubt that the home crowd will boost this Warriors team, who were my stand outs in Round 1. With a win this weekend, the Warriors could book their place in the grand final.
For the Dragons to win this game, Maddie Studdon will need to step up. She had a shaky start last week with a couple of errors and was visibly frustrated towards the end of the game, but I am confident she can bounce back.
Additionally, Charntay Poko needs to be shut down. She was exceptional in week one and her kicking game produced a result almost every single time. She forced a couple of line drop outs and kicked a 40/30. She also had Jules Newman chasing through almost every kick.
My key match up in this game is between the hookers; Krystal Rota and Brittany Breayley.
Some players to watch in this game include Botille Vette-Welsh for the Dragons. Vette-Welsh played for the Wests Tigers in the Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership, made a line break last week and also made the most run metres with 176.
As much as I would love to tip the Dragons leading into this game, I can’t see them getting past the Warriors at home.
But if there’s anything that we can take from the men’s finals series and compare it to this competition, it is that it is still anyone’s game.