The Broncos are the team to beat in 2020 after they opened their NRLW premiership defence with a comfortable 28-14 win over the Warriors.
Brisbane’s NRL side may have produced the season from hell, but the women are doing the city proud as they chase a third NRLW title in as many seasons.
Fullback Tamika Upton was the hero with a first-half hat-trick after the Broncos recovered from a slow start against a Warriors side that played with pride but lacked the all-round class needed to knock off the competition heavyweights.
“It was great to get the win, but we don’t want to be conceding that many points each week,”
Watch Live & On-Demand coverage of the 2020 NRLW Premiership on Kayo. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >
Broncos coach Kelvin Wright said, adding the hectic gameday travel may have contributed to the slow start.
The visitors started with a bang but were quickly overrun as their COVID-affected squad struggled to keep up with the premiers.
NRL CEO Andrew Abdo visited the dressing sheds to thank the players who only came together after being in three mini camps; nine in Queensland, eight in NSW and five in New Zealand.
There was one concern for the Broncos, with five-eighth Raecene McGregor taken from GIO Stadium on a medicab in the final few minutes, but she appears to be okay.
“She’s fine. It was more of a scare. She got caught in some sort of a crusher tackle and she had some tingling down her arms. She’s walking around and moving,” Wright said.
An upset was on the cards when the Warriors jumped out to an early 8-0 lead, but the two-time defending champs quickly clicked into gear thanks to Upton, who is fast becoming one of the brightest stars in the NRLW.
The Broncos fullback sensationally ousted veteran Chelsea Baker for the fullback spot in last year’s grand final, and it’s easy to see why after her eye-catching performance in Canberra.
Nathan Cleary may have grabbed the headlines on Friday, but Upton was even better as she bagged three tries, three line-breaks, six tackle busts and a whopping 117 metres in the first-half.
“I’m really happy with the way her game is developing. She’s got the ability to sniff out a try,” Wright said.
They may be without several of their biggest stars this season, but do not write off the Warriors. Like their NRL counterparts, the women’s side is built on effort and a sense of national pride that will make them competitive no matter what.
Skipper Georgia Hale is the sort of player you build a squad around, Simone Smith is one to keep an eye on, and Ellia Green showed no sign of rust in her NRLW debut.
The sevens star made her presence known when she acrobatically scored with her first touch of the ball. She remained busy on the left edge, and her arrival – coupled with Charlotte Caslick’s brilliant debut for the Roosters – is a huge win for the NRLW.
“She’s one of the better players in the competition from what I’ve seen today and what we saw in the scrimmage last week, and she’s a great human to boot,” coach Brad Donald said.
CHARLOTTE CASLICK SOUNDS WARNING WITH STELLAR DEBUT
Star recruit Charlotte Caslick showed why she’s regarded as one of the best athletes in the country as she helped guide the Roosters to an upset 18-4 win over the Dragons in the NRLW season opener in Canberra.
Caslick, who won gold for Australia in rugby sevens at the 2016 Olympics, dispelled any fitness concerns with a team-high 134 metres in a performance that should put the rest of the competition on notice.
The Roosters didn’t win a game in 2019 but looked much better against a Dragons side that was looking to build on last year’s grand final appearance as well as the Nines title earlier in the season.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the effort out there. There were some executions dramas…but the way they dug in and defended their line and worked had for each other, that’s Roosters footy,” new Roosters coach Jamie Feeney said.
St George Illawarra’s star-studded backline was kept very quiet, with Jess Sergis hobbling through the second half with an ankle injury.
In positive signs for the Red V, Elsie Albert was easily the best forward on the field with a stack of powerful runs and bruising hits in defence, while former Bronco Steph Hancock also provided them with some starch in the middle.
“The Roosters just had that 10 per cent more in them at times when we didn’t,” Dragons coach Daniel Lacey said.
It’s taken just 60 minutes for Caslick to prove she can more than handle rugby league. The step up in endurance from sevens to NRLW should have been a challenge, but instead she made it look easy on debut.
The Roosters’ first two tries came from dummy-half, but Caslick’s fingerprints were all over the sealer as she popped a late offload to set up Corban McGregor out wide.
You could tell from the outset that she wasn’t going to just ease herself into the contest, and by half-time she’d already racked up 110 metres and a line-break as she ran riot on the right edge.
The scary thing is she’ll only get better as her combinations develop with her teammates.
“That’s her first ever rugby league game so she’s still learning on the go,” Feeney said.
“Athletically, she’s outstanding so we couldn’t leave her out. We had to find a way to get her in.”
Both teams will be sweating on the fitness of some of their star players after a brutal afternoon in the nation’s capital. Botille Vette-Welsh’s Roosters debut lasted just 13 minutes before she was forced off with a hamstring injury. Reigning Dally M winner Jess Sergis bravely battled on with an ankle injury but will be in doubt for next week’s game, while Jillaroos star Kezie Apps failed an HIA and will have to be assessed throughout the week.
“It’s no different to the years before where we’ve lost players in Round 1,” Lacey said after his side’s slow start.
“It’s a brutal sport and that’s why I said we’re good for the run now because we’ve tackled and caught up to speed and got the fitness into them.”