The Newcastle Knights are hoping to see another huge sea of “red and blue” at McDonald Jones Stadium this weekend.
While the NRL side bowed out of the play-offs less than a week ago, it’s over to the NRLW team to carry the hopes of the Hunter again.
And, for the first time, the Ronald Griffiths-coached outfit will host a semi-final of the Telstra Women’s Premiership when it faces the Brisbane Broncos on Sunday 24 September.
So, it’s a great chance for the Newcastle faithful to get behind the girls as they strive to reach their second consecutive decider and defend their title.
It is also an opportunity for local fans to celebrate the Knights’ maiden minor premiership, which they claimed with a 28-8 victory over the Wests Tigers in round nine.
“That was a marvellous achievement… and the first of its kind in Newcastle’s history, men or women,” Griffiths said.
“Leading into the match, we didn’t speak about it at all.
“But, the playing group shouldn’t let the magnitude of that feat be lost on them either.
“When you play, you want to win and you want to achieve things.
“So, this is a fantastic accomplishment for our community, our club and, in particular, the playing group and staff.
“However, we won’t lose sight of the bigger picture here either.
“We know we have a job to do against the Broncos.”
The Knights recovered from some big-name player departures in the off-season, including Millie Boyle and Romy Teitzel, to finish on top of the NRLW’s inaugural 10-team ladder.
Now, they’re just 70 minutes away from another grand final berth.
But, standing in their way is Brisbane, the early powerhouse of the NRLW, and its inspirational captain Ali Brigginshaw.
The Knights possess many danger players of their own, including Karyn Murphy Medallist Tamika Upton, who has run more metres (2,016) than any other player in 2023; teenage superstar Jesse Southwell, sitting third in the competition for points scored; Australian representatives Caitlan Johnston, Yasmin Clydsdale and Hannah Southwell; gun hooker Olivia Higgins; and strike backs Shanice Parker and Jasmin Strange.
Griffiths remains confident his talented 18-year-old playmaker will be right to take her place in the starting line-up.
“I think a few people were worried when Jesse left the field early (against Wests),” he said.
“However, I’m sure she’ll be raring to go.
“It would take a lot for her to miss this game.
“She’s worked on the cork all week… and taken every precaution.”
Both teams arrive at the semis in hot form, with Newcastle winning five straight and the Broncos their last four.
Even their round five clash was close.
In the end, the Knights edged ahead 22-20 with Parker grabbing a double.
“We’re aware of what a great side Brisbane is,” Griffiths said.
“But, we’re just preparing for ourselves.
“That’s the way we do it.
“We have a narrow focus every week, just concentrating on ourselves and making sure that we put the best version of ourselves out there.”
Tickets are free for NRL and NRLW club members, with general public prices starting at $10 for adults and children free (with a paying adult).
The match will also be broadcast on the Nine Network, Fox League, Kayo Sports and 9NOW.
Newcastle Knights v Brisbane Broncos
2.05pm: Sunday 24 September (McDonald Jones Stadium)
- Newcastle Knights: 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, Jacinta Carter, Felila Kia, Tamerah Leati, Rima Butler, Caitlin Moran, Jayde Herdegen
- Brisbane Broncos: Hayley Maddick, Julia Robinson, Mele Hufanga, Shenae Ciesiolka, Ashleigh Werner, Gayle Broughton, Ali Brigginshaw, Tafito Lafaele, Destiny Brill, Brianna Clark, Tazmin Gray, Romy Teitzel, Mariah Denman; Lavinia Gould, Jasmine Fogavini, Chelsea Lenarduzzi, Lauren Dam, Jada Ferguson, Grace Griffin, Narikah Orchard, Keisha-Leigh Coolwell, Hannah Larsson
For more sports stories:
- GALLERY: Grand finals cap off successful Newcastle netball season
- Hunter Netball: Ella Smith named Metro MVP
- AFLHCC: Newcastle City wins three flags in milestone season
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.