The National Rugby League Women’s delayed 2021 competition begins at the end of February and will expand to six teams, with three new clubs joining while the Warriors have withdrawn.
Joining foundation NRLW clubs Sydney Roosters, Brisbane Broncos and St George Illawarra Dragons will be Parramatta Eels, Newcastle Knights and Gold Coast Titans.
The addition of three teams has meant a shake up in NRLW squads after a relatively stable first three seasons.
A points cap has been introduced to try and ensure all NRLW teams will field competitive squads.
The Brisbane Broncos are the three-time defending champions while the Roosters and Dragons have been runners up.
As stated, the Broncos are the dominant side in the competition so far. They boast an incredibly strong squad with the likes of Millie Boyle, Ali Brigginshaw, Tamika Upton, Tarryn Aiken and Chelsea Lenarduzzi.
Their already strong squad means they haven’t really had to go out to recruit big name players. The majority of their announced signings are either players recommitting to the club, or lower grade players.
They did lose Jillaroo Annette Brander alongside up and coming hooker Chante Temara, younger sister of Roosters playmaker Zahara Temara.
But the spine of their team remains intact.
The Broncos will once again enter the competition as favourites, and deservedly so.
It’s going to take an almighty effort to overhaul them.
Head Coach: Kelvin Wright
Captain: Ali Brigginshaw
Gold Coast Titans
The Titans are one of the new sides in the competition and as such have a brand new squad to try and pull together.
They’ve recruited mostly from the withdrawn Warriors side as well as picking up some of the players released by the nearby Broncos.
Former Australian and Queensland back Karina Brown, Queensland forward Tazmin Gray, New Zealand vice captain Georgia Hale, former Queensland and Australian hooker Brittany Breayley-Nati, and former Australian and Queensland prop Stephanie Hancock headline the Gold Coast squad.
It’s a rather stacked squad with plenty of experience featuring Origin and World Cup winners.
The big question for the Titans is how they will gel. Like the other new teams, many of these players won’t have played together before and not only will they have a short pre-season, they have also had a fairly disrupted lead into the competition due to COVID and the Christmas break.
Jamie Feeney will be the head coach, coming up from the Roosters where he was head coach of the NRLW side in 2020.
Head Coach: Jamie Feeney
Newcastle are also a new addition to the competition and they’re also a squad that has had to draw heavily from local teams.
The Knights struggled to attract a host of NRLW stars, however did recruit a good chunk of New Zealand representatives.
Prop Annetta Nu’uausala, five-eighth Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly, halfback Charntay Poko, hooker Krystal Rota, prop Kararaina Wira-Kohu, and second rower Maitua Feterika headline the squad.
With a heavy Kiwi flavour the Knights could go under the radar given the strength of the Silver Ferns’ side.
Former NRL halfback Blake Green was slated to be the head coach, however he has withdrawn, replaced by Casey Bromilow.
Head Coach: Casey Bromilow
Despite being a new side, the Eels have gone out all guns blazing in their recruitment. The club has focused on recruiting players who were originally from western Sydney, enticing a group of international and Origin representatives.
Parramatta have also drawn from their traditionally large junior catchment, able to call on the likes of Mt Pritchard and St Marys.
Jillaroos Tiana Penitani, Botille Vette-Welsh and Simaima Taufa, alongside NSW Origin players Filomina Hanisi and Kennedy Cherrington will lead the side.
The blue and gold will also have former Origin half Maddie Studdon and former Kiwis and New South Wales hooker Nita Maynard in the squad.
The Eels will also have the benefit of training out of their Kellyville precinct alongside the NSWRL centre of excellence.
Former Eels player Dean Widders has been named as head coach, having coached the South Sydney Rabbitohs Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership from 2019-2021.
Head Coach: Dean Widders
St George Illawarra Dragons
The Dragons have had to deal with the departure of much of their solid player base as a raft of their regulars headed north to the Eels and Roosters.
Tiana Penitani, Christine Pauli, Jessica Sergis, Maddie Studdon, Isabelle Kelly, Steph Hancock and Rikeya Horne have all left.
On the flip side though, they have managed to recruit Olympic Rugby Sevens player Emma Tonegato, Origin representative Quincy Dodd, and former Sevens player Page McGregor.
They have also retained NSW and Australian back rower Kezie Apps, NSW hooker Keeley Davis and PNG international Elsie Albert.
Jamie Soward takes over as head coach after Mat Head was initially slated to replace inaugural coach Daniel Lacey. Head moved into an assistant’s role with the men’s side at the end of 2021.
Head Coach: Jamie Soward
Captain: Kezie Apps
The Roosters have been the biggest challenge for the Broncos across the NRLW and despite shedding a large group of players, mostly to the Eels, they have maintained a strong squad.
The likes of Origin players Corban Baxter, Zahara Temara, Sarah Togatuki and Hannah Southwell have been retained while they have recruited Jessica Sergis and Isabelle Kelly.
Former Roosters players Charlotte Caslick, Vanessa Foliaki and Kiana Takairangi remain unsigned.
Stepping in to replace Jamie Feeney is former NRLW assistant coach John Strange who was previously responsible for the Central Coast Roosters feeder system.
Head Coach: John Strange