Sydney Roosters broke through in 2021 for their first NRLW Premiership, and in doing so broke the monopoly that the Brisbane Broncos had held on the premiership trophy.
When Corban Baxter held aloft the trophy at the completion of the 16-4 grand final win over St George, it was the culmination of a journey that had started on day one of the inaugural season. And yet, a week before it looked so, so unlikely.
2022 presents a new challenge for John Strange’s Roosters. For the past three seasons the rest of the competition had been looking to knock the Broncos from their lofty perch: now they’re coming for the girls from Bondi.
Last year: Premiers (finished 4th – two wins, three losses. Won semi-final v. Brisbane Broncos and grand final v. St. George-Illawarra).
The Roosters hardly took the road less travelled in their premiership win. The first two rounds saw morale-crushing defeats against the all-conquering Broncos (20-4), and the emerging Gold Coast Titans (26-16).
Sydney got off the mark with a hard-fought two points in round three, defeating Newcastle by 28-12, but it could be argued that their run to glory was kick-started in round four. After an electric early start saw the Roosters to a 12-0 lead over Parramatta. They found themselves behind 18-12 with time running out. A converted try to inspirational forward Sarah Togatuki levelled the scores, and the mercurial Zahara Temara landed the winning field goal to keep the dream alive.
A 16-10 reverse to the Dragons in the final round meant that the Roosters required a Parramatta loss to Brisbane to even make finals, which was what occurred. When the Broncos raced to a 16-0 lead in the semi-final the game, and the season, seemed up, but these Roosters are made of stern stuff.
22 further points without reply put the Roosters into the decider against St George-Illawarra, but again the Roosters were forced to play catch-up. St George-Illawarra looked like they were going to frank the form book in the first half, but only went to half-time with four points to show for it.
It was Temara again, who took the game by the scruff of the neck, lifting her team-mates on her own strong shoulders as they crossed for three tries in the second half to complete a 16-4 win. The premiership comes to Bondi Junction for the first time.
Ins: Destiny Brill (Gold Coast Titans), Shaniah Power (Gold Coast Titans), Jayme Fressard (Newcastle), Angelina Teakaraanga-Katoa, Jada Taylor, Jasmin Strange, Sam Bremner, Shannon Rose
Outs: Yasmin Clydsdale (Newcastle), Olivia Higgins (Newcastle), Simone Karpani (Newcastle), Tayla Predebon (Newcastle), Hannah Southwell (Newcastle), Brydie Parker (injured), Corban Baxter (pregnancy)
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Isabelle Kelly is a bona-fide star. Able to play anywhere in the backline, she has found her home in the centres, and her pre-season efforts have her primed to take this competition by storm. She will assume the captaincy in the absence of Corban Baxter, and has dedicated her pre-season to lead the way as the Roosters attempt to defend their title.
A player of similar pedigree is Samantha Bremner. She returns after missing the previous two seasons due to a pregnancy of her own, and she slots neatly into the full-back position vacated by captain Baxter.
Bremner is a seven-time Jillaroo and a multiple State of Origin representative. It is always a loss when a player of Baxter’s calibre is missing, but the acquisition of Bremner keeps the loss to a minimum. She knew what she had to do to prepare to fill Baxter’s boots, and track watchers suggest she has done just that and more.
In the forward pack, it is Kalosipani Hopoate that Sydney Roosters are expecting big things from in the 2022 season. A tough and unrelenting front rower still well short of her 19th birthday, Hopoate makes her debut in round one and continues the legacy of her famous rugby league family, replacing the departing Tayla Predebon.
What to expect:
After winning a premiership there are not many directions in which a team can head, but there is incentive there for the Roosters. Their form in the home and away rounds left a bit to be desired, and they will want to not only defend their title, but do so in a more convincing style.
Their opening match is against Parramatta, a side which they almost fell to in 2021; a defeat that would have spelled the end of their finals chances. Coach Strange will have his charges primed to make a statement from day one, and will look to build on that for the whole campaign.
One of the other aims will be to prove that their semi-final victory over Brisbane was no fluke, and that the Roosters themselves are now the big players of the NRLW. They won’t have to wait long for the privilege – round two sees the Roosters and Broncos face off at the Moreton Daily Stadium.
It’s a big year for:
Raecene McGregor, there are few better ball players in the NRLW; many would say none better. McGregor set up the play for so much that was good about the Roosters 2021 season, and the Roosters will be keen to utilise her vision and creativity to optimum effect in 2022.
Round 1 Team
- Samantha Bremner
- Leianne Tufuga
- Jessica Sergis
- Isabelle Kelly
- Jayme Fressard
- Zahara Temara
- Raecene McGregor
- Sarah Togatuki
- Destiny Brill
- May Hill-Moana
- Shaniah Power
- Olivia Kernick
- Keilee Joseph
- Jocelyn Kelleher
- Shawden Burton
- Kalosipani Hopoate
- Otesa Pule
- Joeli Morris
- Samantha Economos
The Roosters have suffered some significant losses from their 2021 squad, but have recruited well to fill the holes that have been created. They will look to 2022 as an opportunity to not only win a second premiership, but do it in a more dominant fashion than they did in 2021.
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