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Follow the lead: Senior players key for Widders

Parramatta coach Dean Widders wants his senior players to take the lead as the Eels look to make an immediate impact on the competition in the season-opener against Newcastle on Sunday.

Key signings Simaima Taufa, Botille Vette-Welsh, Tiana Penitani and Kennedy Cherrington arrive at the Eels having spent time in the NRLW previously and at the State of Origin level.

The quartet are among 11 new recruits at the club with NRLW experience and will be crucial in bringing the other 13 players in the squad – all of whom are yet to play a match – into the game.

Respected local junior Taufa, one of the most endurable forwards in the women's game, was appointed captain of the side last week in a history-making occasion for the club.

"Parramatta means a lot to the community so we want to make sure that it means a lot to the players as well," Widders told

"We want to respect the opportunity that we've got and take on the responsibility of promoting the game in western Sydney and the girls have really taken that on board.

"For not only the whole side but those senior players, it means something to them to represent.

"There's a lot of strong players amongst the group. We've just got to execute on the field now."

Widders was particularly eager to see how NSW playmaker Maddie Studdon handles the opportunity to lead the side in the halves after mixed performances in the NRLW previously. 

The Eels are Studdon's third club in four years after stints at the Roosters and Dragons.

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"I believe Maddie still has a lot to offer at this level," Widders said.

"She's done everything we've asked of her at the club. We've got a bit of ground to make up with some of these teams already playing for a few years but players like Maddie will help with that."

The Eels held an opposed session with the Wests Tigers Harvey Norman NSW Premiership side last Thursday in preparation for their match against the Knights in round one.

Despite being the least experienced NRLW side in the competition, Widders was wary of Newcastle's potential, particularly on home turf.

"We know how much footy means to the Newcastle area," Widders said.

"We're going to be right up against it. They're going to be physical but it's also a good team to be able to play against in the first big game for the club.

"The Knights, in their own backyard and in front of a home crowd, presents a good challenge for our girls first up."

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For Widders, it's his first opportunity at coaching in the NRLW after previously doing so at South Sydney in the Harvey Norman NSW Premiership.

"I'm excited about it, it's something I've wanted to do and when the competition was postponed I wanted to make sure I was still available," Widders said.

"We've worked as hard as we could as staff to make it all happen. The girls are a tight bunch and all get on well."


Be there for round one of the NRL Telstra Women's Premiership on February 27. Ticket prices start at just $12 for adults, and juniors under 15 can redeem a free general admission ticket with any paying adult. Visit

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Parramatta Eels respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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