Highly-successful Newcastle Knights NRLW mentor Ronald Griffiths believes he coaches an “amazing group of girls”.
And, it appears the local community agrees with him after thousands turned up at City Hall on Tuesday afternoon (3 October) to celebrate the team’s second consecutive Telstra Women’s Premiership.
Newcastle knocked over the Parramatta Eels in 2022 and backed up that effort to account for the Gold Coast Titans 24-18 in a thrilling decider at the weekend.
To honour the Knights squad – Tamika Upton, Sheridan Gallagher, Shanice Parker, Abigail Roache, Jasmin Strange, Georgia Roche, Jesse Southwell, Tayla Predebon, Olivia Higgins, Caitlan Johnston, Laishon Albert-Jones, Yasmin Clydsdale, Hannah Southwell, Nita Maynard, Tiana Davison, Kayla Romaniuk, Rima Butler, Jacinta Carter, Caitlin Moran, Felila Kia, Tamerah Leati and Jayde Herdegen – Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes hosted a civic reception, much to the delight of the side’s hometown fans.
The girls, after being introduced to the crowd, then spent hours signing autographs and posing for selfies.
“They’re terrific to coach and fantastic ambassadors for the game,” Griffiths said.
“They just love working for each other on the field.
“And, away from it, they’re always connecting with the Newcastle community.
“You saw the result of that when more than 12,000 people watched their stand-alone semi-final at McDonald Jones Stadium last month.
“On top of that, we’ve got a great group of staff who prepare them every week.
“Although we had a couple of long-term injuries this year, they were out of our control.
“But, if you look at all our soft tissue ones, there’s hardly been anyone miss a game.
“So, they do a wonderful job of getting the girls ready to train – and play – every week.
“Then the playing group backs that up by working hard for each other to make sure they’re set to go when the weekend rolls around.
“I honestly think the consistent hard work – and presenting the best version of themselves, from players to staff – is why we’ve been able to succeed again this season.”
Griffiths admitted he’d noticed the difference between the two premiership victories.
“I didn’t really have time to reflect during the year (2022), just that it was done… and it was so fast,” he said.
“However, this time around, we understood that the season would be longer and we’d won a grand final.
“So, people were going to be revved up to play us every time.
“It probably gave us more time to reflect on what we wanted to achieve and how we were going to do it.
“Also, I thought the feeling in 2023 was different in terms of the playing group.
“It was more: ‘hey, we’ve been there before and we know what it takes if we’re willing to work hard for each other’.
“That’s how it seemed to me.
“Last year, we had to encourage the hard work and push it.
“Whereas this season, the girls took control of it themselves, which made me proud.”
With two successive NRLW titles under his belt, Griffiths said there was motivation to snare a hat-trick.
But, he wasn’t rushing into a decision just yet.
“I reckon when you’re involved in any sort of side and if you look back in history, you really marvel at some of the things teams have done,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.
“For instance, Brisbane won three NRLW competitions in a row.
“And, for me personally, when I came to the club I thought ‘well, if you win one, possibly win two and then win three’.
“It’s something that I always thought about trying to do.
“Whether I can or not remains to be seen.
“I’ve been offered a couple of different roles, but nothing’s decided… I just want to enjoy the moment.”
In a further boost for the Knights, Upton, Clydsdale and Johnston were also selected in the Australian Jillaroos squad for the upcoming Pacific Championships starting on 14 October.
For more sports stories:
- NRLW: Tamika Upton… the humble Knights superstar
- NRLW: Upton magic seals Knights’ second premiership
- REAL NRL: Huth, Lamb share Player of the Year honours
Get all the latest Newcastle news, sport, real estate, entertainment, lifestyle and more delivered straight to your inbox with the Newcastle Weekly Daily Newsletter. Sign up here.