Almanac Rugby League – Women’s State of Origin 2021: Gritty, not pretty





It wasn’t pretty at Sunshine Coast Stadium last night for the annual one-off Women’s State of Origin clash between the defending title holders Queensland and the New South Wales Blues. Showers throughout the day persisted into the evening and the majority spectators who have to sit on the grass of the exposed eastern mound got a bit more than damp by night’s end.


But that didn’t dampen the spirits of the 7000+ who rolled up in an array of wet weather gear for what promised to be a close encounter of the female rugby league kind. Surprisingly, there was a very healthy contingent of NSW  fans who made their presence known all night.


The curtain-raiser Under 19s match set up the evening with a tough, see-sawing game that eventually saw the visitors emerge with a 16-12 win. If these girls are the next wave of players for the NRLW and higher honours, then we can look forward to a very healthy standard for the next decade at least.


The main game was gritty, not pretty. There isn’t a split hair between these two sides and both had done their homework on their opponents in the lead-up to the game. I expected Queensland to play it up the middle to try to gain ascendancy before unleashing Aiken, the Browns, Upton and Ciesiolka. Well, they did the first part of that only to be greeted by aggressive, three person tackles by a Blues defensive line that met the ball carriers at the advantage line. As a result, the Queensland backs saw little of the ball and had no space to show their wares. Key play-makers Aiken and Upton were clinically targeted and had little influence.


The Blues attacked with vigour through the centre of the field and made easy yards against a Maroons defence that appeared to wait for the attackers to come to them. As a result, Queensland was on the back foot throughout most of the first half, defending grimly at times. As I expected, NSW looked dangerous out wide through Kelly, Sergis and Penitani.


NSW scored first after just four minutes when their forward momentum allowed the Blues to spread wide to the left where Isabelle Kelly found a yawning gap to cross over wide out. Studdon missed the conversion. They should have stretched the lead on three or four other occasions during the half but a mixture of dropped ball, poor options and some scrambling defence saw the Maroons hang on.


Finally down the other end, the Maroons applied pressure but several dropped balls cruelled their chances. Eventually, 18-year-old debutant hooker Destiny Brill scampered over from dummy-half and Lauren Brown added the extras to give the home side a surprise (and probably undeserved) lead. And that’s the way it stayed until the break. NSW must have wondered how all their dominance could possibly see them behind; Queensland must have thought, ‘if we can play that poorly and still be in front, then we’ve got them’.


The second half opened with a better organised and more aggressive Queensland effort that looked more like itself. Brigginshaw became more involved and gave the Queensland attack better shape. However, a period of dominance failed to register on the scoreboard. When the momentum swung, NSW looked threatening but further handling errors, hardly surprising in the conditions, saw them fall short. Credit, too, to the Maroon defence which packed more punch after the break. The game became the proverbial arm wrestle and I made the comment to Liam that the next try was worth double points psychologically.


Maddie Studdon got the Blues back on even terms with a penalty right in front about 10 minutes from the end. It was the right call against a stretched Maroon line. Queensland thought they had scored the winner through Upton with seven minutes on the clock when, in a rare wide sweep, she found a gap to dive over out wide. The Bunker had other ideas and denied the play because of an obstruction call that left some of the professional commentators a tad bemused.


Queensland had the better of the last few moments and, with less than two minutes on the clock, received a penalty under the black dot for a leg pull on Lenarduzzi by Filomina. It was a brave but correct call, just like the one down the other end. Brown slotted the goal and the Maroons celebrated after holding onto the ball for the final two tackles of the game.


Queensland second rower Tamzin Gray was adjudged best on ground in a game where team effort by both sides outshone individual efforts. As I said, it was gritty, not pretty, but the intensity and the closeness of the scoreline kept everyone involved until the very end. It was a good, old-fashioned slog! Referee Belinda Sharpe allowed a bit too much lingering in the ruck for my liking but she was consistent. When the two moments came for the big calls towards the end, she made them fearlessly (and, I add again correctly).


Next on the agenda – a three match series for the women, please! The crowd loves the women’s game. The suits, ever eager for a money spinner, should see that they’re on a winner here. Case closed!


The NRLW competition begins in August.



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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


  1. Liam Hauser says

    The conditions made it uncomfortable when sitting on the hill, but I’m glad that I attended.
    Evidently, the women’s game is in a much, much healthier state than the men’s game in Queensland.

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