Almanac Rugby League – 2019 NRLW Grand Final: Brisbane Broncos v St George Illawarra Dragons – A right royal stampede!

Please pass the face washer to clean the egg off my face and heat the oven for the humble pie! My pre-match tip was incorrect, but only by 30 points! (But, at game’s end, my heart was happy.)

 

The Brisbane Broncos overpowered the St George Illawarra Dragons by 30-6 in today’s NRLW Grand Final in what was possibly the most dominant result in the short history of the competition to date. The Brisbane girls were in total control from start to finish, sticking to their simple game plan to ruthlessly brush aside the brave but ineffective Dragons.

 

Brisbane pulled a selection shock before the game, replacing experienced full-back Chelsea Baker with the emerging youngster Tamika Upton. It proved to be an inspired move with Upton threatening repeatedly in attack and defending strongly – witness a desperate, late covering tackle on Shakiah Tungai long after the match result was decided. Meg Ward took over the goal kicking duties.

 

Brisbane’s game plan was simple – use their powerful forward pack to attack up the middle to create space for halves Ali Brigginshaw and Raecene McGregor to run, pass and kick to effect. They executed this approach brilliantly! In defence, the idea was to get out of the defence line quickly to suffocate the Dragons before they could spread the ball wide to their fleet-footed outside backs. Again, they implemented this method to perfection. The Dragons, when they had the ball, wanted to go wide but simply had no way through or around the Broncos defence.

 

By half-time, the Broncos led 10-0 and it could have been twenty. Lavinia Gould scampered over down the short side after four minutes and McGregor added a second after sixteen minutes with a jinking, stepping burst through three Dragons defenders. The Dragons rarely entered Brisbane’s half and, when they did, looked short of ideas. To their credit, the southern girls defended gamely and did well to hold Brisbane to a modest lead at the break.

 

The Broncos iced the game with three tries in a ten minute period midway through the second half. Julia Robinson was on the end of an excellent Brigginshaw cut-out pass to score in the corner (converted by Ward), Chelsea Lenarduzzi barrelled her way over in a clever hit and spin movement (converted by Ward), and Amber Pilley ran through a yawning gap from a right-side sweep to put the result beyond doubt (converted by Ward). The word is overused but, in this stretch of the game, the Broncos were just awesome. No-one would have held them today.

 

The Dragons were overpowered and out-muscled but they did not roll over at any stage and continued to give their all. In the end, they were rewarded through a Kezie Apps try with nine minutes left on the clock. Maddie Studdon added the extras.

 

This was a tremendous, seventeen-woman Broncos performance. The forwards hunted as a pack and established a domination that was irresistible; the halves, given time and space, picked and chose their points of attack; the outside backs surged for good metres, and Upton at full-back chimed in beautifully, almost a la James Tedesco. You could run through all seventeen names to praise their individual efforts but they performed as a complete team. Somehow, among all this, the judges chose Annette Brander as best afield. I have no complaint with that choice – Brander exemplified the Brisbane performance. But I can’t let the occasion go without (yet again) lauding the veteran Steph Hancock – she was an unstoppable locomotive as she barrelled her way through the middle to create situations for her teammates to exploit.

 

Although well beaten, the Dragons were not disgraced – far from it. Put simply, they came up against a talented Brisbane team which would not be denied today. The Dragons were brave, they gave their all and they competed until the final whistle. They were not helped by several injuries during the game which saw the likes of  Maddison Weatherall, Brittany Breayley, Maddie Studdon and Hollie Wheeler sidelined at various stages. Kezie Apps was her usual whole-hearted self, Jessica Sergis ran strongly but was well contained, Keeley Davis fought hard, and Shakiah Tungai was dangerous at times. Today, the Dragons were just not in the same league.

 

Looking to the future, there is no doubt that the NRLW has a vital place in the code. The first question will revolve around the possibility of expanding the competition to admit further teams. The second will be about the length of the season and a move towards semi-professionalism for the players. Let’s see how that all works out over the summer months.

 

Congratulations, Brisbane Broncos ladies! A performance for the ages at a standard to which all teams should aspire.

 

Now, where’s that pie?

 

 

Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.

 

 

About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A Queenslander through and through, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. I enjoy travel, good coffee and cake, reading, and have been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. As well as being one of Footy Almanac's online editors, I moonlight as an editor for hire - check me out at www.writerightediting.com.au

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