Newcastle coach Blake Green has opened up on the challenges of recruiting NRLW stars to play for the Knights’ inaugural team.
Local players Hannah Southwell, Yasmin Meakes, Isabelle Kelly and Brydie Parker have all signed with the Sydney Roosters for 2021, as revealed by News Corp on Sunday.
“I wouldn’t say we missed out (on local stars). We haven’t landed them, which would have been nice, but it wasn’t through a lack of trying or convincing from our part,” Green said.
“The women’s game is all about relationships and building those. And at the moment we just don’t have any, we’re new to the space.”
Southwell, Kelly, Meakes and Parker all play for the Central Coast Roosters in the Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership.
The team is coached by John Strange, who will also oversee the Chooks’ NRLW side this season.
See each NRLW club’s marquee signing below
Hannah Southwell will run out with the Roosters again. Picture: Gregg PorteousSource:Supplied
“We don’t have a feeder club as such … the hardest part has been being able to paint a vision for someone to see and to jump into,” Green said.
“A lot of those players that are at those established clubs already, they’ve got existing relationships with their coach and their friends that play there. So it was always a challenge to sort of attract them to come to Newcastle.”
Green hasn’t had long to assemble a roster, but he welcomed the challenge.
The retired playmaker is determined to create an NRLW pathway that is visible for talent across the Hunter and Newcastle region.
The Knights announced their inaugural signing of local young gun Caitlan Johnston last week.
“She is still a really young girl, 20 years of age, and has already played for Indigenous All Stars and come through our pathway system, through Tasha Gale. We‘re really proud of that. We’re really grateful for the fact that she showed the courage to make the step and come to the club,” Green said.
Caitlan Johnston has been announced as the Knights inaugural signing. Picture: AAP Image/Dave HuntSource:AAP
“Shes someone that we want to build the club around. She’ll be the face of our NRLW. What a cool story, for her to have to be able to tell everyone in sort of five, ten, twenty years time that she was the inaugural signing for the entire time. She should be incredibly, incredibly proud of that.”
Newcastle are expected to announce their 24-player NRLW squad over the coming days.
Green hinted that it will include a mix of local players, imports and young guns. A handful of the club’s exciting Tarsha Gale Cup stars will also join the squad as development players.
“I‘ve had a little bit of experience with the Kiwi Ferns when I was at the Warriors. So I’ve seen a few bits and pieces of the players based over there in the women’s game,” Green said.
“Casey Bromilow has been a great help, he is in charge of our elite pathway, he‘s seen a heaps of these young girls develop and come through the system.”
Green is confident that his roster is capable of shaking up the competition this year.
“We‘ve been able to attract players who want to be here, which is important. I think when you’re starting from scratch, you need to have players that want to be part of it,” Green said.
“They want to be effort based. They want to help set standards and make each other accountable.
“It‘s part of the fabric of our town, we’re a blue collar and hard working town. We’re based on hard workers and good people. And that’s been the resume that we’ve used to pick the players.”
Sydney Roosters sign Jillaroos star
Jessica Sergis is returning to where it all began.
The Australian Jillaroos and NSW Blues centre – who grew up a staunch Chooks fan and played junior footy for the Coogee Randwick Wombats – will run out for the Sydney Roosters in 2021.
“My whole family, they‘re all South Sydney supporters. I was always the odd one out, in my Roosters kit. So it feels like I’m coming back home a little bit” Sergis said.
Australian Jillaroo star centre Jess Sergis back in the day, cheering on the Roosters with her sister Vivienne and brother Brandon. (Supplied)Source:Supplied
Leaving St George Illawarra after three NRLW campaigns was tough, but the 2019 Dally M Medalist believes she’s made the right move.
“My best friend Kezie (Apps) is there, it was hard to leave her, because we’ve played almost all our football together,” Sergis said.
“Leaving her, the club, I feel like I’m leaving a part of Zac (Lomax) too, but they were all really supportive. They understood the reasons behind my move, there were no hard feelings.
“I moved to Sydney earlier this year for a job, it all made sense in the end with work.”
Jess Sergis in action for NSW. Picture: NRL PhotosSource:Supplied
Sergis joins Corban Baxter (nee McGregor), Hannah Southwell, Sarah Togatuki and Yasmin Meakes as the Roosters’ marquee signings for 2021.
But, what actually sealed the deal for Sergis?
The chance to play for Chooks’ NRLW coaches John Strange, Kylie Hilder and Blake Cavallaro.
Strange oversees the formidable Central Coast Roosters’ Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership side that won the title in 2020.
This year, the team took out the minor premiership and remains undefeated heading into finals.
NSW Blues Women’s coach Hilder and NSW Blues Under-19s Women’s coach Cavallaro also bring a wealth of experience.
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Coach Kylie Hilder of New South Wales is seen after the Women’s Rugby League State of Origin match at the Sunshine Coast Stadium. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
“All NRLW teams are stacked, they’re filled with great athletes, so now it’s coming down to the coaching,” Sergis said.
“I’ve heard so many good things about John Strange … that was a major factor, getting me across the line, to the Roosters. I can’t wait to learn from him.”
In fact, Strange is so respected across the game that superstar centre Isabelle Kelly has also moved to the Roosters this season – despite not being one of the club’s “marquee signings”.
The tricolours have retained seven members from last year’ squad – including Maroons halfback Zahara Temara.
Isabelle Kelly will return to the Roosters in 2021. Picture: AAP Image/Craig GoldingSource:AAP
Still, the Roosters know this year will be challenging.
They’ve lost four key players to Parramatta and many excelling through their Central Coast system will run out for NRLW rivals.
It’s the frustrating reality for a club that’s worked hard to create its own elite women’s pathway over the last few years.
“We’ve been decimated, pretty much. We’re providing a lot of players for the rest of the teams,” Roosters General Manager of Football Programs Craig Walker said.
“I get it, I’m all for talent equalisation, I just feel like we’re bearing the brunt of it all unfortunately.
“We’ve lost some players, but we’ll be in there. We’ve got a good coach. We’re hoping that the camaraderie and chemistry that we put together, in that short time, comes to the floor and the girls can play some good footy.”
John Strange has been promoted to Roosters NRLW head coach for 2021. (Credit: Roosters Digital)Source:Supplied
Despite this, the Chooks’ pathway is holding strong. Of the 18 NRLW squad members named, 11 played for last year’s Central Coast Roosters.
Two of the club’s young Tarsha Gale Cup stars, Keilee Joseph and Otesa Pule, have also been awarded NRLW contracts.
Blues lock Southwell expects to be fit for NRLW kick-off, despite sustaining a nasty ankle role in last week’s State of Origin showdown.
“I’m pumped. We’ve had a few girls leave, but I have full faith in John Strange. He’s the best coach I’ve ever had in any sport, I wouldn’t be playing anywhere else, that’s for sure,” Southwell said.
“I’m keen as (to play with Sergis), I reckon she’ll rip it up with us.”
Hannah Southwell is confident she will be ready for the start of the season despite injuring her ankle in Origin. Picture: Gregg Porteous/NRL PhotosSource:Supplied
Sergis echoed Southwell’s confidence in the Roosters system.
“All I want is to win an NRLW premiership. No one wants the Broncos to go 4-0. That’s the ultimate goal, to beat them and get a ring, that’s all I want” Sergis said.
The Roosters have locked in 18 NRLW players for 2021 including Corban Baxter, Shawden Burton, Olivia Higgins, Mya Hill-Moana, Keilee Joseph, Jocelyn Kelleher, Isabelle Kelly, Olivia Kernick, Yasmin Meakes, Roxette Murdoch, Brydie Parker, Tayla Predebon, Otesa Pule, Jessica Sergis, Hannah Southwell, Zahara Temara, Sarah Togatuki, Leianne Tufuga.
Remaining squad members will be finalised over the next fortnight.
2020 Roosters captain Corban Baxter (nee McGregor) will return for the tricolours in 2021. Picture: Dylan RobinsonSource:News Corp Australia
SYDNEY ROOSTERS NRLW MARQUEE SIGNINGS: Jessica Sergis, Corban Baxter (nee McGregor). Hannah Southwell, Sarah Togatuki and Yasmin Meakes
PARRAMATTA EELS NRLW MARQUEE SIGNINGS: Tiana Penitani, Simaima Taufa and Botille Vette-Welsh, Kennedy Cherrington and Filomina Hanisi
BRISBANE BRONCOS NRLW MARQUEE SIGNINGS: Ali Brigginshaw, Millie Boyle, Tamika Upton, Tarryn Aiken and Amber Hall
GOLD COAST TITANS NRLW MARQUEE SIGNINGS: Tazmin Gray, Karina Brown, Georgia Hale, Brittany Breayley-Nati and Crystal Tamarua.
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS NRLW MARQUEE SIGNINGS: Caitlan Johnston, TBC
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA MARQUEE SIGNINGS: TBC
Originally published asKnights coach opens up on battle to secure players
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