The NRLW season is about to start! With the last season finishing in October, we’re all ready for play to begin in 2023.
The Eels impressed in the trial, going toe to toe with the Dragons and winning 18 to 14 in a 60-minute hit out.
The highly anticipated clash between the Parramatta Eels and the West Tigers promises to be a thrilling encounter with a touch of the unknown that will have fans on the edge of their seats. Both teams will be eager to showcase their best in what is expected to be an intense battle.
Date: Sunday, July 23, 2023
Venue: CommBank Stadium, Parramatta
Kick-off: 12 PM AEST
Broadcast: Channel Nine and Foxtel
Live Stream – Kayo & Nine Now
1. Abbi Church 2. Zali Fay 3. Mahalia Murphy 4. Shontelle Stowers 5. Cassey Tohi-Hiku 6. Pihuka Berryman-Duff 7. Rachael Pearson 8. Elsie Albert 9. Rueben Cherrington 10. Ruby-Jean Kennard-Ellis 11. Amelia Mafi 12. Talesha O’Neill 13. Kennedy Cherrington 14. Capri Paekau 15. Jade Fonua 16. Shannon Muru 17. Madeline Jones
18. Monique Donovan 19. Kyra Simon 20. Kimberley Hunt 21. Rosemarie Beckett 22. Nakia Davis-Welsh
The Parramatta Eels have been a team on the rise in the NRLW, qualifying for the grand final in just their second season. Led by the inspirational Kennedy Cherrington, and new half, Rachael Pearson, they boast a talented roster comprising experienced veterans and emerging players. It is a new look squad for the club after all players became free agents at the end of last year.
The Eels lineup includes five debutantes.
1. Botille Vette Welsh 2. Jakiya Whitfield 3. Rikeya Horne 4. Leianne Tufuga 5. Josie Lenaz 6. Pauline Piliae-Rasabale 7. Emily Curtain 8. Sarah Togatuki 9. Ebony Prior 10. Christian Pio 11. Kezie Apps 12. Eliza Siilata 13. Najvada George 14. Sophie Curtain 15. Losana Lutu 16. Taylor Osborne 17. Folau Vaki
18. Jessica Kennedy 19. Rebecca Pollard 20. Bianca Bennetts 21. Salma Nour 22. Imogen Gobran
West Tigers will be playing their first NRLW premiership match on Sunday afternoon, and who better to face than their nearest neighbour. They will enter the contest determined to prove their mettle, and while they may not have the same experience as the Eels, they possess a gritty and determined squad. The Tigers will look to their halves pairing to control the game’s flow and create scoring opportunities for their speedy outside backs.
Brett Kimmorely is the head coach, having been an interim head coach for the Tigers NRL club last season. More than half of the 22 players listed played in the Tigers successful Harvey Norman NSW Premiership team in 2022. There are also six players that were on the Eels roster in the 2021 and 2022 seasons.
Dynamic fullback Botille Vette-Welsh is finally making her NRLW return from an ACL injury, ironically against her former club.
Battle of the Forward Pack
The revamped Eels roster only contains six players from the 2022 grand final squad. Kennedy Cherrington takes her place at lock, allowing Ruby-Jean Kennard to have a starting spot next to the PNG veteran Elsie Albert.
Last season, the Eels were the leading set completion team, achieving a season average of 80% on their way to the finals. Their strong yardage and completions put them in good field position, though a lack of quality red zone play and poor discipline allowed other teams off the hook far too often.
Parra conceded the most penalties in the 2022 season and were third in errors. Their defence became a concern, especially through the middle. They topped the “tackles made” table but unfortunately also missed the most tackles in the premiership.
Kennedy and Elsie lead the experience in the forward pack in 2023 and will be looking to build upon the Eels power game from 2022. Last season, the team was second in run metres, runs made, kick return metres and dummy half runs. Expect the Eels to find success running direct at a Tigers line which struggled at times in their trial against the Cronulla Sharks.
The Tigers pack is headed by the likes of Kezie Apps, Sarah Togatuki and Christian Pio. All are strong ball carriers with Togatuki and Pio in the top 25 for run metres last year. The 32 year old Apps brings international and Origin experience, and being in her sixth season in the NRLW will give the inaugural Tigers team much needed leadership and direction.
Najvada George is an intriguing player. The lock position is a physical and demanding job and the former Eel gave glimpses of her potential last season. After giving her a starting spot, the Tigers will look to her to match the Eels forwards and then push the advantage when fatigue kicks in.
Despite the Eels qualifying for last season’s grand final, they aren’t favoured to repeat that outcome in 2023. They have only won four games across two seasons. Likewise, the Tigers won’t be carrying the weight of too many expectations.
This clash is a chance for both teams to make an early statement and increase the optimism of their supporters.
Parramatta was no match for the Knights in last year’s decider but made a rod for their own back with too many errors. Meanwhile the Tigers struggled in their trial against the Sharks, with their edge defence baited by the shapes created by playmakers Emma Tonegato and Tayla Preston.
The Eels have the talent to beat the Tigers. They will need to defend well to limit the kick returns from Botille Vette-Welsh, not to mention her involvement in sweep plays just outside of yardage.
Rachael Pearson is an experienced play maker and her kicking game and short side plays will keep the defence on their toes. Between the yardage from their key forwards Cherrington and Albert, and Pearson finding Tohi-Hiku and Fay with space, the Eels could open up a score on their inexperienced opponents.
The Tigers have to keep their offensive game plan simple. Vette-Welsh will float out-the-back in structured shapes. Rikeya Horne has a quick first step and will test any deficiencies in the Eels defence, especially close to the line. Emily Curtain will look to take control of the game against her former team mates, but the Eels should know her game well.
I’m backing the Eels to get the job done.
Prediction: Parramatta 20 d Wests 6
Player of the Game: Kennedy Cherrington