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Finally.

After a five-month delay of the NRL Telstra Women's Premiership, the rescheduled 2021 season has arrived with 144 players ready to set themselves up for a bumper schedule.

Six teams, three new NRLW clubs and 75 potential debutants make for a competition that is expected to unearth emerging stars and women's rugby league as a brand better than ever before.

"When the Commission made the call last year it was very clear it was a postponement and we were always committed to playing this competition," NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said at the NRLW launch on Tuesday.

"It's terrific now with the environment and protocols in place we can have live crowds and all 140 players across six teams who don't have to relocate or leave their jobs, many of whom have careers outside of playing."

From health care workers to miners, school teachers and mothers, every player in the NRLW has a unique story to tell.

Many of sacrifice, plenty of hard work and some whose journey in the game is only just beginning.

Get caught up with NRLW

One thing is for certain, women's rugby league is here to stay.

"The Commission is really committed to investing from the grassroots up," Abdo said.

"We want to go from 10,000 participants just a couple of years ago, [which] now we're 30,000, we want to double that in the next couple of years.

"We will invest at all levels of the pyramid to make sure that the quality of the football and the experience for the players is not compromised."

While no decision has been made on if further expansion will occur for the 2022 NRLW season, pencilled in for later in the year, players will be ready to make up for lost time.

Representative jerseys are also on the line in 2022 with women's State of Origin scheduled for June and the World Cup set for November.

NRLW 2021 by the numbers

  • Six teams
  • Three new clubs
  • 18 games
  • 144 players
  • 75 rookies
  • Four new coaches
  • 70-minute games

Family reunion for Sowards

Dragons coach Jamie Soward will have a wealth of support in the crowd on Sunday as he prepares for his first game in charge of the NRLW side at McDonald Jones Stadium.

A support network of around 25 family members, many of whom are based in regional areas across NSW, will travel to the Hunter to watch Soward's side in action.

"They all bought their own tickets too, which I thought was pretty cool, they're huge supporters of women's sport and wanted to support the game financially," Soward said.

Sowards's two young daughters, Indiana and Ivy, will be decked out in Dragons jerseys with the side to open the season against the Titans.

Soward pleased after finalising NRLW squad

Captaincy fires up Breayley-Nati 

Newly-appointed captain Brittany Breayley-Nati said she got one of the shocks of her career when she was named skipper for the Titans' inaugural season.

The former Jillaroos hooker hasn't been sighted in the NRLW since 2019 with family commitments taking priority in recent years but still remains one of the fittest competitors at the club.

Titans coach Jamie Feeney turned to Breayley-Nati ahead of the likes of fellow teammates Georgia Hale and Tazmin Gray.

"It was pretty unexpected, I know I've been out of the game for a few years so the captaincy is something I won't take lightly," Breayley-Nati said.

"It's exciting to be back. I've sacrificed a lot of time in the past for footy so decided to sacrifice some time for my family. I'm really excited to get out there and play for the Gold Coast."

The 2018 Dally M winner married Kiwi Ferns playmaker Kimiora Breayley-Nati during her time away from the game, her wife going through her own challenges in recent years with an ACL injury and heart scare.

"We've stuck together and trained hard to get back to where she needs to be," Breayley-Nati said.

"I'm feeling fresh. I've got a bit more fire in my belly and I think Kimi is in for a really big year, too."

Former Jillaroos hooker Brittany Breayley-Nati will captain the Titans.
Former Jillaroos hooker Brittany Breayley-Nati will captain the Titans. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

Opposed session primes Broncos

The Broncos' pre-season finished on a different but exciting note last week with the three-time champions holding an opposed session with the men's side.

Respective Broncos coaches Kelvin Wright and Kevin Walters came together for the joint session, which included several scrimmages in torrential conditions at Red Hill.

"It was crazy, an experience we'll probably never forget," Broncos captain Ali Brigginshaw said.

"For the club to make it happen the boys were so welcoming and you saw the energy that they'll bring into the year with their communication and line speed.

"Some of the boys were tipping us up if we did something really well or something that we could change."

Many are predicting the Broncos to make it four in a row in the NRLW this season but Brigginshaw was quick to knock down suggestions the side were premiership certainties.

"I think it's a big comment to make when we haven't played a game yet," Brigginshaw said.

"We've got 12 new players, some secret weapons and they're exciting to see but you don't know players are going to perform under pressure."

Knights 'CEO' brings the energy

Newcastle forward Maitua Feterika was handed the title 'CEO' (chief energy officer) when she first arrived at the club ahead of this season and produced an extraordinary handshake effort at the club's content day on Tuesday.

Feterika, the former Bronco premiership winner, worked on a personalised handshake with every squad and staff member associated with the NRLW side.

Watch the incredible effort below!

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Newcastle Knights (@nrlknights)

Injury blow for young Eel

Promising rookie forward Fatafehi Hanisi will miss the early rounds of the NRLW due to a knee injury.

Hanisi suffered the setback at training alongside older sister Filomina but the club is hopeful she will still play a part this season.

Hanisi was a star in the under 19s program last year and is tipped for big things in 2022.

Brown's got confidence

Titans winger Karina Brown will swap the footy for a microphone on Sunday following her side's clash with the Dragons to perform her new single 'She's got confidence' with Harlen.

The new song, which was released earlier this month through platforms like Apple Music and Spotify, was inspired by the NRLW and other female athletes to chase their dreams.

The performance will take place before the Knights host the Eels at McDonald Jones Stadium.

To download the song on Apple Music, click here

To download the song on Spotify, click here.

Brown excited to represent her home

Baxter gets No.1 nod over Sergis

Roosters captain Corban Baxter has won the race for the fullback spot but that could change as the game goes with Roosters coach John Strange weighing up his options.

The No.1 jersey has provided a selection dilemma for Strange but his naming of Baxter at fullback on Tuesday will see Jess Sergis and Isabelle Kelly remain in the centres.

Sergis and Kelly were in contention after previously playing fullback in the Harvey Norman NSW Premiership in 2021.

"It's a middles game so hopefully we can lay a good platform which allows us girls in the outside backs some time with the footy," Baxter said at the NRLW launch.

"I'm really pumped to have Issy back and Jess at the club and hopefully can score plenty of points this season."

NRLW 2021: Where power meets passion

My Round 1 tips

  • Dragons by 2
  • Broncos by 10
  • Knights by 6

 

Be there at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday for the opening round of the NRLW. Ticket prices start at just $12 for adults, and juniors under 15 can redeem a free general admission ticket with any paying adult. Visit nrl.com/tickets

 

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations. 

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