The evolution and progression of the women’s game in rugby league have been tremendous and have been faster and smoother than anything ever imagined. The announcement of the Representative Round earlier in the year will allow the rugby league world to see the showcase of the future of the sport for both professional leagues.
Both the under 19s and first grade have key matchups to analyse and break down, where the games could be won and who might be key factors in the result and shape of the games being played.
The three key positional matchups between both sides that could dictate the result of the game are the centres, five-eighths, and back-rowers.
The ball movement and ball play on the edge with the centres will be a battle. The current demand for this position is either to be a creator and facilitator with the ball or a defensive specialist.
Last year’s matchup saw a showcase of centres getting yardage in the backfield and putting their wingers in open space. This was seen in Teagan Berry’s breakout performances in the past two Under 19s State of Origin games where she was able to score from cut-out passes and the one hand-off pass where she was able to outrun everybody in open space scoring two tries in both games.
This year, the centre matchup consists of Jasmine Peters (QLD), who is a “marquee” NRLW player eligible for this match, and who starred for the North Queensland Gold Stars in the Grand Final for the BMD Premiership title. Peters has a strong off-ball game and when she has the ball, is a great ball carrier and line runner, who can also score tries against trap defences.
Her centre partner for the Under 19s State of Origin Emma Paki, was one of the star players for the Central Queensland Capras, especially in the BMD Premiership Grand Final, scoring a try. In this game as well as during the season, she has improved her ability to score tries in set plays and be a good line runner.
For NSW in the centres, Andie Robinson and Mia Middleton will cover the QLD centres. Andie Robinson has a lot of high praise from the Cronulla Sharks staff and was part of the 2021 Under 19’s State of Origin win. Robinson is a strong player from set plays that consist of backline movement and has great ability in scoring in the corners when she needs to.
Mia Middleton had a great season in the Tarsha Gale competition with the Newcastle Knights. Middleton has shown her ability to anticipate plays while on defence, as well as a strong and quick runner, get interceptions, as well as, score tries in little to no space with a trap defence, showing her potential in being a creator with the ball.
Losana Lutu vs another “marquee” NRLW signing Jada Ferguson will be the matchup to look for.
Lutu has a great ability in changing direction. Lutu is a great eyes-up player at 18 years of age, with a powerful sidestep to boot.
She has yet to put on the Number six jersey in the NRLW, however, she has shown an ability to play multiple positions and be one of the more versatile players in the game, having experience in the outside backs positions and dummy half at the Harvey Norman Tarsha Gale Cup to the Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Premiership, and the NSW City Under 19s at the Women’s National Championship less than a fortnight ago.
Jada Ferguson played in last year’s under 19s matchup, showing her ability to put and find her teammates in great space and opportunities to score. After a season in the Brisbane Broncos NRLW team, although we have not seen much playing time from Ferguson, it will be good to see how her game has gone to new heights.
It will be interesting to see how this Queensland team will use Ferguson in the offence, if she will be the facilitator like last year or if we will see her play eyes-up and play instinctively and implement her short kicking game.
Having tasted NRLW experience earlier this year, Chantel Tugaga starts in the back row alongside Leilani Wilson. Tugaga only has played one game for the Dragons this past NRLW season, however, in that game, we saw her ball-playing ability as well as her potential as a ball carrier and ball runner.
Wilson played three games in the 2022 Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Premiership season. In these three games, she displayed her yardage game. In the current demand of Rugby League, back-rowers with a yardage game are liked.
Queensland’s backrowers in Otesa Pule and Hannah Larsson will be a tough matchup for NSW’s Tugaga and Wilson. Larsson scored a try in last year’s under-19 fixture and is set to start in the back row, running into open space.
Otesa Pule is a player that the Roosters have loved that is coming up through their system, she is a hard-running second rower who was in the 2021 Tarsha Gale Sydney Roosters squad. Pule also has shown how good she can be as a front-rower this season in the Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Premiership competition, showing her ball-playing ability and her yardage game is very elite for her age.
Larsson in the 2022 BMD Premiership has shown her potential to be a great runner of the footy and move the ball. Starting in this State of Origin game should allow us to see how she is in a full game on the big stage.
The Under 19s State of Origin game is on Thursday, the 23rd of June, at 5:45 pm at Leichhardt Oval or can be seen on Channel Nine, Foxtel, and Kayo.
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Ampol Women’s State of Origin
The NSW Women’s squad is looking to win this time around after losing the 2021 matchup in a close fashion.
The first-grade level has seen rapid development in the style of play and emphasis of importance in specific aspects of the game similar to the NRL.
Three positions are going to play a pivotal role in how the game is going to be controlled, these being the fullbacks, halfbacks and front rowers.
Emma Tonegato vs Tamika Upton is a premier matchup. Upton is arguably the best fullback in the game. Upton’s experience and combination with former teammates, five-eighth Tarryn Aiken and halfback Ali Brigginshaw are going to be a tough matchup for Tonegato.
Tonegato will have to be very good with her kick return and yardage out of her own half aspect of the game. Averaging 167 running metres per game for the Dragons, she will have to put on a strong running performance for this Origin matchup, as well as ball play and play in the line offensively with her halves combination, Kirra Dibb and Rachael Pearson.
Upton has an all-around game at the fullback position, improving her passing ability and the number of touches she had in the 2022 NRLW season. The 25-year-old has been on the big stage for the Brisbane Broncos and has not disappointed in the State of Origin as well.
Rachael Pearson and Ali Brigginshaw is a star-studded matchup that fans should look forward to.
The Dragons halfback has quickly shown progression in her game and was part of their run to the Grand Final this season. With Pearson’s kicking game and organisation of the offence, we should see really good set plays run by NSW.
With her fullback in Tonegato and halves partner in Kirra Dibb, we should see smooth ball movement and getting the ball to the edge players in their centres of premiership duo Jessica Sergis and Isabelle Kelly.
Ali Brigginshaw has shown how valuable her leadership and experience are on the Origin stage. Her combinations with her fullback and halves partner are going to be a key influence on how they’ll attack the NSW defence.
Brigginshaw’s kicking game will need to be of use in this game to get the best field position. The Broncos’ half-field offence is one of the best in the game and if the NSW defence cannot defend Queensland when it gets in its half, it is going to be a tough night for NSW.
New South Wales’ Simaima Taufa and Millie Boyle vs Queensland’s Chelsea Lenarduzzi and Shannon Mato are going to be the most physical matchups Women’s State of Origin has ever seen. If one of these duos can get a lot of metres, especially post-contact metres, and dominate the physical battle at the start of the game, that could influence who wins the game before the end.
Simaima Taufa as a lock forward has been able to hold her own in the middle. As a front-rower, Taufa can use her ability to gain metres, tackle breaks, and defend with the physicality she offers the game.
Boyle has a similar physicality to the game, gaining yardage with ease and contributing on the defensive end. She’s also one of the best front-rowers in the game that can contribute to scoring and the offence, whether NSW utilises this, especially near the try line, would add more firepower to the middle than we have seen in the NRLW environment.
Chelsea Lenarduzzi is one of the best runners for her position, and her strength offers the opportunity for Queensland to advance through its sets in better situations with her offload ability. Keeping the play alive and ball movement will be a very pivotal principle for Queensland in this match.
Shannon Mato in the middle will boost Queensland’s ability to control the battle of the middle. Although she only played two games for the Gold Coast Titans this season, she can offload the ball and gain yardage anywhere on the field. She will most likely create a great start for Queensland for the first 10-15 minutes of the game, bringing intensity and physicality to the game that Origin is most well-known for.
You can the Ampol Women’s State of Origin game on Friday, the 24th of June, at 7:45 pm at GIO Stadium or on Channel Nine, Foxtel, and Kayo.
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