In the final year of one-off women’s Origin matches, and at two wins each for New South Wales and Queensland after four meetings, there’s even more on the line than usual when the rivals meet in Canberra on Friday night.
- Both New South Wales and Queensland have won two games each under the State of Origin banner
- With the series expanding to two matches next year, bragging rights for the first five years of women’s Origin are on the line
- With arctic conditions expected in Canberra on Friday night, forward power and tactical kicking will be paramount for both sides
With the series expanding to two matches next year, a new era will begin for women’s rugby league – but before that, old scores must be settled.
Both sides have two wins each since 2018, and each win has come on home soil, so on the frozen tundra of Canberra Stadium, the closest thing to neutral ground in rugby league, they will fight for the right to say they’re the best of this era.
The game is a decider of sorts, five years in the making.
For their part, the Blues are also hell-bent on snapping their two-game losing streak.
“It annoys me (when I think about it). I hate losing, so it hasn’t been great. But we played in Queensland the last two years, I’m happy this is a bit closer to home soil,” said New South Wales prop Millie Boyle.
“Everyone gets hungrier through each year you don’t have that success. We know what it’s like to win, but now we know what it’s like to lose as well.”
The Blues enter the match as favourites, due in part to the presence of Boyle and fellow NRLW Dally M winner Emma Tonegato at fullback.
While Queensland boast quality in the backline, especially with custodian Tamika Upton and dangerous five-eighth Tarry Aiken, the arctic Canberra conditions should play into the Blues’ power and yardage game with Boyle, Tonegato and star prop Simaima Taufa leading the charge.
In such conditions, the kicking game will be crucial – the Maroons will once again look to Ali Brigginshaw, as fine a playmaker as the women’s game has ever seen, to lead the charge while New South Wales will trust debutant halfback Rachael Pearson to run the show.
Pearson, who enjoyed a brilliant debut NRLW season with the Dragons, has the biggest boot in the game and the local Hay will be looking to showcase it early and often at Canberra Stadium.
She’ll need to overcome any debutant jitters, but after appearing in St George Illawarra’s run to the NRLW grand final Pearson believes she has the big game experience to get the job done.
“It was an emotional moment, when I found out I was debuting. I was excited and proud, getting the call from Kylie and hearing her say ‘I want you to be my New South Wales halfback’, what else can you say but ‘ I’d love to’,” Pearson said.
“Coming off the back of that NRLW season, it’s been hectic and crazy but in a good way. I thought I was a good chance off the season I had, but getting the call was still so exciting.
“Just coming into the sheds and seeing ‘Pearson’ on the back of the jersey, I had tears in my eyes. It probably won’t hit me all the way until I run out in Canberra.
“Sowie (Dragons coach Jamie Soward) said to me he can’t wait for the switch to flick in my mind when I realize I’m the player who’s supposed to be here. But I’m not a boastful person, I just want to take this opportunity and run with it.”
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