The Newcastle Knights have claimed their first NRLW title after a strong defensive display coupled with brilliant attacking input from teenager Jesse Southwell and the Karyn Murphy Medal winner Tamika Upton saw the club record a 32-12 victory over the Parramatta Eels.
The premiership completes a massive turnaround for the Knights after they lost all their games last season, before bouncing back and winning six of their past seven matches in 2022 to claim the title.
The Eels dominated both the ball and territory early on with the Knights forced to repeatedly repel the opposition off their own try line.
They did a good job with this, defending two uncharacteristic errors from co-captain Milie Boyle, until they finally cracked when Brooke Anderson darted out of dummy-half to score the first points of the grand final.
Newcastle looked to have hit straight back when Kiana Takairangi crashed over, only to see the ball stripped from her grasp in the in-goal. Although the Knights didn’t have to wait much longer, when from the resulting drop-out, Upton’s late offload eventually sent the winger over.
Parramatta, having controlled proceedings up until that point, suddenly found themselves on the back foot with possession and field possession suddenly swinging in Newcastle’s favour.
The Knights weren’t about to waste the opportunity and scored on the opposite wing this time as Emma Paki stepped off her left foot. Kira Dibb missed her second conversion of the afternoon, giving the Knights a two-point advantage after just over a half an hour had been played.
The momentum had well and truly turned with Newcastle piling on the points as they rolled through the middle to yet again enter into good field position. Southwell’s short ball sent Romy Teitzel over untouched with the backrower extending her side’s lead.
Ill-discipline was killing the Eels with them not only losing the physical battle but also repeatedly giving away penalties. This trend continued in the second stanza with the Knights maintaing their attacking intent, with Upton ghosting around out the back to score her fifth try of the season.
‘TOO MUCH LATITUDE… TOO MUCH TALENT.’
How good are these Knights 👏 pic.twitter.com/kH9Nbu6Jfw
— Fox League (@FOXNRL) October 2, 2022
The Eels didn’t even manage to get their hands on the ball until over ten minutes into the second half. But eventually they managed to hit back when Simaima Taufa went over from close-range to put her side back into the game.
Parramatta’s upturn in fortunes coinciding with the absence of Newcastle’s Boyle from the pitch. The prop had been massive throughout, running for a game-high 235 metres from 29 carries.
Both sides traded disallowed tries with Caitlin Moran looking to have scored with her first touch of the game, only for a knock-on in the buildup to keep the Eels in the contest with under ten minutes remaining.
However, Upton was again in the thick of the action when a sweep to the right edge saw Takairangi cross for her second of the afternoon.
The 17-year-old halfback Southwell, who was crowned the Rookie of the Year during the Dally M’s, then made the result certain when she dummied and powered her way over the stripe to cap a memorable victory for the Knights.