Parramatta star Tiana Penitani believes the Eels can create history by becoming the second consecutive team to beat the Broncos and secure a place in the NRLW finals.
The Eels travel to Brisbane to face the three time premiers after their loss to the Titans last week and Penitani knows they will be out to restore order in a game that could decide the final four and the minor premiership.
With St George Illawarra holding out Sydney Roosters 16-10 at Kogarah on Saturday, the Broncos need to win by more than 20 points in Sunday’s NRLW double-header at Suncorp Stadium to finish the regular season in first place.
Should that occur and the Titans beat the Knights in the earlier game, Parramatta’s season is likely to be over.
“We are coming up against a side that are going to be looking for redemption after losing to the Gold Coast Titans in the Queensland derby so they will come out firing,” Penitani said.
“We are the underdogs coming in and we are new to this competition, so we are still building as a team and we are really excited by the challenge.
“We have got some areas of our game to clean up but they are effort areas more than anything so we think we can come away with the win.”
The 28-26 loss to the Titans was just the second time that the Broncos have been beaten in four seasons of the Telstra NRL Women’s Premiership, with their other defeat being in 2019 against the Warriors.
However, Brisbane only snatched a 22-18 victory against the Dragons a week earlier after a late try and the gap between the Broncos and their NRLW rivals appears to be narrowing.
“They definitely are beatable,” Penitani said. “From my point of view, they have got so much cohesion in that Broncos squad from being together for so long and that has enabled them to build those connections and develop those key areas.
“I have always thought that they are beatable, but they play as one team and a lot of teams who go up against them have a little bit of disconnect and that is how they are able to score points on you.”
Penitani believes the NRL’s decision to postpone the 2021 competition from late last year to the beginning of the 2022 season has been a contributing factor to a more open six-team competition.
With the NRLW to expand to eight teams next year and 10 teams in 2024, Penitani predicts the talent will be more evenly spread – particularly with increased money on offer, each club being able to make two marquee signings and players able to sign long term contracts.
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“It was only fitting that we had the NRL push our season from last year to this year,” she said.
“I know that there was a lot of noise around how it was going to work and having to deal with the challenge of COVID, but it gave us an opportunity to really re-fresh, have a strong pre-season over the Christmas break and be in really good shape.
“The competition is the strongest it has ever been, and I know all of the players feel that way with how fast it is and how much of a great product we are delivering.
“It has tied in well with the start of the NRL season, we aren’t really competing with any other sports so it has been awesome, and we are looking forward to finishing this season and looking towards the back end of the year with the 2022 NRLW season.”
NRLW clubs are now able to begin negotiations with players for the end-of-season competition and Penitani said she was hoping to remain with the Eels.
“As of this week clubs can start sending out contracts. We have been asking for financial security and that is what it brings by being able to have those conversations now to secure a contract for the back end of this year for the 2022 season,” the Jillaroos star said.
“It is not so much the dollar figure but more the ability to have that financial security and put more into the sport, more into our bodies without the added financial stress.
“I love my team, I love playing with the Parramatta Eels. We have got such a great group of girls so I would love to stay if they will have me.”