NRLW Rookie of the Year Kennedy Cherrington will represent New South Wales for the first time on Friday night, and the front rower is excited to showcase the women’s games in primetime.
Whilst last year’s game was a sell-out, the COVID-19 restrictions only allowed 4,833 Queenslanders to attend.
Despite the border now being closed to most of Greater Sydney, Cherrington is excited by the fact that this year’s crowd will be closer to capacity.
“This year it is going to be special for heaps of us because none of the girls’ families were there last year,” she told The Inner Sanctum.
“It’s going to be a mixed crowd and it’s going to be packed and I can’t wait to finally get a crowd that we deserve.”
Despite only playing in her first game, the sense of occasion isn’t lost on Cherrington. The Blues will not only be looking to redeem their defeat last year but showcase women’s rugby league in primetime.
Highlighting the pathway and showing young girls there is a future in the sport is important to Cherrington.
“I’m an older sister so I’m definitely paving the way for my younger sister and her friends and all the young ones coming through,” she said.
“Now with the pathway that has opened up for all these young ones, like NRLW and Origin, it’s a clear pathway and just knowing that girls have a better pathway than I did.
“When I was younger, we didn’t really have much we just sort of freestyled and played with the boys.
“So, to know that they now have a clear pathway where they can get paid and make a good career out of it is exciting.”
More Rugby League News
Cherrington’s journey into the Blues jersey has been a long one. As a junior she played rugby league until she couldn’t anymore.
A gifted athlete Cherrington was enticed to play rugby union, signing a contract for the New South Wales Waratahs in 2018. She enjoyed a successful stint at the club, winning two premierships in her first two seasons.
In 2020 the Super W season was cancelled because of COVID-19 allowing Cherrington to return to the NSWRL women’s competition to play for the Cronulla Sharks. In September she signed for the Sydney Roosters in the NRLW, and after an impressive debut campaign she was awarded the NRLW Rookie of the Year.
She was bought in as injury cover for last year’s Origin game but has worked hard on the technical aspects of the game which has seen her selected in this year’s team.
“Last year I came in as injury cover so just knowing that I have done that little bit extra has got me a start on the bench,” she said.
“I have only just jumped on the scene, and after the NRLW campaign and I was like I really just want to get my head space in the right place and really work on position specific stuff.
“I just worked really hard; the Roosters really helped me over preseason as well as Cronulla coaches.
“It was just finetuning those things and then I got myself a position on the team.”
In her first Blues camp as a player Cherrington has really bonded with prop Simaima Taufa. Cherrington believes their bond has helped her settle into camp.
“She has been helping me tweak little things and seeing her lead us forwards from the front has also been really good,” she said.
“She isn’t one of those speaker types she just does her job, and we follow.”
Cherrington will be lining up in her customary role of the bench, a position she has made her own in her short career. She believes her infectious energy and on field aggression means the role suits her perfectly.
“I have a lot of energy, so bringing that when the girls are tired and coming off and then exerting that energy when the girls from the opposition are tired is what I do best,” she said.
“For me it’s about getting out there doing my job, run hard, tackle hard because I think I am pretty aggressive too.”
Cherrington’s rise in rugby league has followed a similar trajectory to childhood friend, Jarome Luai.
The pair played touch rugby together through the junior ranks and have stayed friends ever since. Luai’s guidance has also played a huge role in Cherrington’s quick rise to State of Origin selection.
“He does give me good advice about the pressures and having to deal with everything because he is up there in the spotlight, so I think it has been really good to have a sense of that, especially with him being at the top level and me coming through kind of following him,” she said.
After both playing off in their respective grand final’s last year and losing Cherrington is hoping for a similar fortune to Luai in her State of Origin debut.