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Hunter quartet celebrates Roosters’ NRLW success


Hunter products Hannah Southwell, Olivia Higgins, Yasmin Meakes and Brydie Parker are celebrating their first NRLW title after the Sydney Roosters stunned the St George Illawarra Dragons 16-4 on Sunday.

Unfortunately, it was a bittersweet moment for Parker, the ex-Muswellbrook Ram, who suffered an injury in the opening half and played no further part in the grand final at Moreton Daily Stadium, Redcliffe.

But, lock Southwell (Newcastle), hooker Higgins (Raymond Terrace) and second-rower Meakes (Scone) were all instrumental in the win, with the latter pair scoring crucial tries.

Central Coast duo Isabelle Kelly and Jocelyn Kelleher deserve plenty of praise, too.

Meakes’ effort levelled the match up at 4-all; and Higgins’ four-pointer sealed the victory in front of a huge crowd.

“This win means so much,” said Higgins, who also boasts close ties with Tooheys Newcastle Rugby League (Real NRL) club Macquarie Scorpions.

“The girls have worked so hard.

“It feels surreal, especially grabbing a try in the decider.

“The atmosphere was fantastic, I even had goose bumps during the National Anthem.”

Roosters coach John Strange kept saying his side never stops believing, but even he was left stumped by their against-the-odds march to the crown.

Fifth and set to miss the semi-finals altogether, Sydney snuck in on points differential thanks to Brisbane’s thrashing of Parramatta in the regular season’s final game.

The Roosters then beat three-time defending champions Brisbane after trailing 16-0 in their semi-final, then on Sunday in Redcliffe came from 4-0 down to trump St George Illawarra 16-4.

“I’m overwhelmed by how they played,” Strange said. 

“It was similar to last week.

“Down 4-0 at half-time, there was total belief.”

The Dragons scored in the first minute and then defended mightily until Meakes and Kelly crossed in the second half.

Higgins then sealed the result, skipping out of two tackles and finding space for her maiden NRLW try.

Free to play after winning a judiciary battle earlier in the week, Roosters prop Sarah Togatuki was instrumental for the victors and a deserved winner of the Karyn Murphy Medal for best on ground.

Star Dragons fullback Emma Tonegato set up Madison Bartlett for the first try but was otherwise well contained by Kelly and fellow centre Jess Sergis.

“She (Kelly) is a big game player and was up for this; the bigger the game, the better she is,” Strange said. 

“That try was really important but .. (if) she doesn’t come up with that (tackle on Tonegato) and they score in the corner it turns the game.”

Parker left the game in the 19th minute, collapsing with a suspected ACL tear and copping Taliah Fuimaono’s shoulder to her face on the way down.

Fuimaono was sin-binned but the Roosters couldn’t exploit the one-player advantage, the Dragons’ scrambling defence holding firm in the playmaker’s 10-minute absence.

A Roosters knock-on in the game’s first set gave St George an early look and Tonegato needed no further invitation.

She darted from the scrum base, drawing two players to release winger Bartlett who scored in the left corner.

They looked to have skipped out further when, in a rare return to Roosters territory, Keely Davis collected her own grubber kick and scored under the posts.

Replays showed a knock-on though, crucially denying the go-ahead try in the shadows of half-time.

Dragons coach Jamie Soward praised his team’s defensive effort but said lack of offensive polish hurt them.

“I was just concerned about our lack of attention to detail on the attacking side that probably bit us in the butt at the end there,” he said.

“(It’s) shithouse … it hurts; feel sorry for the girls who busted their arse for me in the pre-season.

“It’ll burn for a little while but someone had to win and lose. 

“It doesn’t feel great but I’m proud of the girls who came in and the standard on what it means to be a Dragon.”

  • SYDNEY ROOSTERS 16 (Yasmin Meakes, Isabelle Kelly, Olivia Higgins tries; Zahara Temara 2 goals) defeated ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS 4 (Madison Bartlett try)

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