St George Illawarra captain Kezie Apps predicts the NRLW Grand Final against the Sydney Roosters will be the toughest match she has ever played.
The fourth installment of the fledgling league, which has grown from four to six teams this season, will culminate with the first freelance decider at Redcliffe on Sunday.
Fifth after playing their last game of the regular season, the Roosters slipped to fourth on the points differential, then upset three-time defending champions Brisbane last Sunday to earn their place.
Buoyed by Sarah Togatuki’s victory in court on Tuesday night, the fairy tale scenario is almost over for newcomers to the competition.
But veteran prop Apps has other ideas, offering something of a warning during an otherwise jovial grand finale breakfast in Redcliffe on Friday.
“It will be the toughest match we will play,” she said.
“They have an amazing attacking pack and so do we. It will be a game won in the middle and hopefully we can rejoice later in the game with our outside backs.”
Apps, Hollie Wheeler and Papua New Guinea Elsie Albert’s jaw-dropping successes set new standards for code, but will be challenged by liberated Togatuki and Hannah Southwell.
Dragons coach Jamie Soward insisted influential half-back Rachael Pearson, who returned for the semi-final after resting in the final round due to back pain, would be in able to manage the competition.
“Rat is fine,” Soward said, downplaying any comparison to Cooper Cronk’s famous Grand Finals performance in 2018 with a badly injured shoulder.
“We could have played her in the last game, but we made sure she was right for the semi-final.
“It’s refreshing to have someone from the country come and play football, that was Rat’s MO.”
Roosters coach John Strange smiled when asked how they were going to curb the influence of Dragons fullback Emma Tonegato, the Olympic gold medalist in rugby sevens fresh off a Dally medal M in its first season.
“You try to silence these big players, that’s easier said than done,” he said.
“But we have a plan and the girls will do their best.
“There are some really good clashes and it will be a great game, and (with the weather much better than it is in Sydney right now) it will be a great football game.
“No one gave us a chance (to beat Brisbane) but the belief to play like that was there internally before this game.
“It showed the mental resilience, but we’ll have to step it up again.”
Australian Associated Press