After years of watching from the sideline, Parramatta are ready to take the NRLW by storm. After a big off season of recruiting, the Eels have put together a side to challenge even the best in the competition.
With Botille Vette-Welsh and Nita Maynard the team has some serious playmaking potential, whilst captain Simaima Taufa adds some force to the forward pack.
A side filled with both experienced internationals and rookies, expect the Eels to be up there with the best in 2022.
Whilst there is no team form to go off, the form of the Eels recruited players in 2020 and 2021 can be looked at.
Recruiting the right players is crucial, whether they be international talent or up and coming rookies, with Parramatta focusing much of their attention to Western Sydney, specifically NSWRL side Mounties.
Players such as Simaima Taufa and Botille Vette-Welsh appear to be two of their biggest signings for their inaugural season, both of whom are coming off some serious form in the last NRLW competition.
The pair both made the 2020 Grand Final with their former club Sydney Roosters, unfortunately falling to the Broncos.
Vette-Welsh comes to the Eels as a star recruit, having never missed a Grand Final in her three seasons of NRLW football.
Unfortunately for her, she has also never won any of those matches, something she will be looking to change in 2022.
With the postponement of NRLW last year the only top class matches she was able to play were representative football, where she played for NSW and the Maori All-Stars.
Despite the limited opportunities she has made them count, setting up the Maori side’s first try in last weekends match with a brilliant line break.
She also performed well in the 2021 State of Origin match, running for 168 metres and getting the only try assist for her team.
The Parramatta rookies are also coming off some great form heading into their debut seasons, especially young gun Emily Curtain.
The 20 year old has been tearing up lower division competitions, scoring double digit tries in both the Tarsha Gale Cup and the NSW Women’s Premiership.
During her time in these competitions she debuted for the under 18’s Blues side in their win over Queensland, as she kicked four goals and grabbed a try assist.
Even though there was no NRLW competition last year doesn’t mean that the women didn’t have any opportunity to play, specifically in the NSWRL competition.
Many of those players who haven’t had the opportunity to play in the NRL spent the season with Mounties, who finished second before COVID cancelled their scheduled finals.
This includes players like Jocephy Daniels, Tommaya Kelly-Sines, Sereana Naitokatoka and Jamie Anne Wright who as a squad managed to score 489 points across 11 matches, whilst only conceding 88. Whilst the team as a whole have never played together, collectively they are bringing as much form as you possibly could into the 2022 season, whether that be their marquee signings or rookies.
Therese Aiton (West Brisbane Panthers), Kennedy Cherrington (Roosters), Abbi Church (St. Mary’s), Emily Curtain (Wests Tigers), Jocephy Daniels (Mounties), Jade Etherden (Dragons), Fatafehi Hanisi (Dragons), Filomina Hanisi (Roosters), Rikeya Horne (Dragons), Ellie Johnston (Dragons), Tommaya Kelly-Sines (Mounties), Shirley (Seli) Mailangi (Rabbitohs), Nita Maynard (Roosters), Sereana Naitokatoka (Mounties), Taina Naividi (Mounties), Christine Pauli (Dragons), Tiana Penitani (Dragons), Katrina May Phippen (Wentworthville), Tess Staines (Brumbies), Maddie Studdon (Dragons), Mareva Swann (Mounties), Simaima Taufa (Roosters), Botille Vette-Welsh (Roosters), Jamie Anne Wright (Mounties).
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All reports indicate the Eels have had a brilliant pre-season, with those close to the team saying their moral is high heading into their first season
Whilst there are still things for head coach Dean Widders to fine tune before their round one fixture, it appears that the men’s team’s tendency to throw offloads has rubbed off onto the women.
This second phase play, as well as good support play from breaks should be music to the ears of the Parramatta faithful, who can expect numerous line breaks from their experienced spine.
Whilst there has not been much published surrounding those who have performed extraordinarily well in pre-season, expect the spine, forward pack and outside backs to be firing come the first round.
What to expect:
It’s always hard to judge the expectations for a squad in their inaugural season, however with the amount of high-profile signings Parramatta has made over the last eight months they are clearly aiming high.
Eight former and current NSW Origin stars have been brought into the squad, including star fullback Vette-Walsh and new club captain Taufa.
Pair this with the signing of New Zealand hooker Nita Maynard and Fiji captain Serena Naitokatoka, it’s clear they they are filled with serious talent.
Of their 24-woman roster they also have some good NRLW level talent, with five players coming over from the Roosters, whilst six have been signed via St George.
This means that there are 13 possible debutants come their first-round clash against fellow new-commers Newcastle, including Fiji captain Naitokatoka and prop Fatafehi Hanisi.
Many of the other young players have played in the NSWRL Women’s Premiership, so they won’t be coming in without high level experience.
When looking at the expected line up you will struggle to find a stronger spine than Parramatta’s, with all four of them having played for their country.
These women will complement the starting forward pack nicely, with the likes of Filomina Hanisi and Taufa being some of the most threatening players in the game.
Their only weakness may be their second row, with the team only having three recognised back rowers on the books.
Pair this with two young and inexperienced wingers and they may leak some points on their edges. Despite this they will likely make up for it, with their wingers being touted as some of the fastest in the competition.
It’s a big year for:
A dual-code star, Nita Maynard has achieved a lot in Rugby League since converting from Union in 2017. She has won a State of Origin series, a Rugby League 9’s World Cup and has been a regular in the Roosters side since their inaugural season in 2018.
After reaching such highs in her first 3 seasons of professional rugby league the 29-year-old nearly ended her own career following an incident at a nightclub last year.
Many thought that it would spell an end to her professional career, however the hooker was given a second chance via Parramatta.
After joining the Rugby League Players Association as a player operations manager recently she announced that this would be her last year in the league.
The two things that elude the star hooker are an NRLW premiership and a Women’s World Cup, both of which she has a chance to win in her final year in the game.
Expect big things from Maynard in 2022.
Predicted Round 1 Line Up:
As with any new team it is difficult to predict the round one squad, with pre season training essentially acting as an audition to make the round one side.
NSW representatives such as Vette-Welsh, Taufa, Kennedy Cherrington and Filomina Hanisi are all but guaranteed to start, whilst the teams lack of second rowers may force Widders’ hand unless he opts to play people out of position.
Curtain presents many interesting questions, with her potentially even in line to start over Fiji international Naitokatoka.
In the same vein she could find herself just out of the squad, considering the amount of experience that Therese Aiton brings to the squad. It seems likely that one of those two could be the 14 come their first match of the season.
Tommaya Kelly-Sines arguably does also deserve a starting position after her performance in the NRLW All-Star clash, however with representative forwards in the squad she may have to settle for a bench position.
Prediction for the season:
It’s always difficult to predict the final standing for a team that has never played in the league before, however there are some key factors that can be looked at. This Parramatta team do have quality players in all of the right places, with international representatives filling their entire spine.
Pair this with a big forward pack and they seem to be primed for success. The expansion of the league has also left some of the original teams without previously key players, with the likes of the Dragons having their squad picked apart.
This should only mean good things for the Eels, who would be disappointed if they were not to make the finals in their inaugural season.
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