Women’s State of Origin 2022 is the most influential in the series’ short history

Women’s State of Origin 2022 is the most influential in the series’ short history

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There aren’t many places more forbidding in the middle of winter than Canberra’s GIO Stadium. If the NSW Blues are hoping to reverse the trend of Queensland’s dominance in the women’s state of origin over the past two years, they have found the best possible place to do so.

For Queenslanders who think anything below 20C is a bit chilly and need a coat and scarf, the icy depths of a concrete bowl at Bruce with no protection from the elements present the ultimate challenge. The stadium is also considerably larger than previous ones Women’s Origin venues – a capacity of 25,000 compared to 12,000 at the Sunshine Coast Stadium and 10,000 at the North Sydney Oval. With the announcement last week that the Canberra Raiders would be taking part in expanded NRLW competition in 2023, there is hope this anticipation could lure the Canberrans out of their warm homes and into GIO Stadium, giving the Blues an extra competitive advantage .

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Since the announcement that the streak will transition from one game to two next year, a win in that match has also gained in importance. This means that in the fairly likely event of a tied streak, the shield will be awarded to last year’s winner, giving the winner of this year’s standalone match a significant view of the balance of power.

With a chance to forge a legacy combined with memories of the fiery end of last year’s game – when Queensland came away with an 8-6 win from a penalty in the dying minutes – this is shaping up to be the most influential Origin match the women’s in its short history.

This series also sees the Origin debuts of two Olympic gold medalists in Evania Pelite (Queensland) and Emma Tonegato (NSW). Tonegato was a revelation for the St. George Illawarra Dragons of the NRLW season, with speed, timing and determination that redefined the full-back position. The joint Dally-M winner made the tackle of the year against Roosters center – and now Blues teammate – Jessica Sergis in a desperate save in round five and was instrumental in propelling the Dragons into the Grand Finals than most pundits did anything but written they had off before the start of the season.

Tonegato will also have many established connections to draw from, with Dragons teammates including Rachael Pearson (half back), Keeley Davis (hooker) and captain Kezie Apps (back row) playing alongside her for NSW. The other Dally M receiver – prop Millie Boyle – will also be competing for the Blues and will bring the kind of power she has averaged 18 hits and 198 yards in her five games this NRLW season. It’s an impressive line-up and coach Kylie Hilder is confident her team has the talent to secure victory.

Hilder herself has only recently retired from a role on the field – she last played for the Blues aged 44 in the 2020 loss to Queensland. She took over the coaching role the following year and has secured the job again for 2022 with unfinished business to attend to after a heartbreaking end last year.

The Maroons celebrate after last year's win at Sunshine Coast Stadium.

The Maroons celebrate after last year’s win at Sunshine Coast Stadium. Photo: Darren England/AAP

The Maroons, on the other hand, are never to be discounted – regardless of whether they come from women or men. Although the NSW teams had defeated the NRLW, the Broncos and the Titans both had strong seasons and narrowly lost their semifinals. The Queensland squad consists of 17 players from these two teams and their line-up is very strong. Ali Brigginshaw is an unflappable full-back, while Tamika Upton provides flair at full-back and 2021 Nellie Doherty Award winner Tamzin Gray brings the power in the back row.

It was a landmark year for women’s rugby league. After a 491-day hiatus between NRLW’s third and fourth seasons, this year’s fifth season kicks off in August – just four months after players last hung up their boots. The expansion of the competition for 2023, which will see the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks, North Queensland Cowboys and Wests Tigers join the competition – alongside the Raiders – will grow from six teams to 10 and marks the most significant development of the competition since its inception in the year 2018

This expanded player base also increases the pressure on players competing in Origin. With more young talent rising through the ranks and gaining more experience in the thriving NRLW, the competition for blue and maroon jersey spots is becoming more intense than ever. Not only will players be proud of the line, but they will know that this one game is their opportunity to make an impression and demonstrate their importance to the pickers.

It all sets up an enticing competition on Friday, when the crunching of boots on the ice and the roar of a rugged crowd are poised to become the soundtrack to a history-making women’s Origin match.

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