Life & Style

The nib Newcastle Knights Women’s League kicks off next Sunday and we had the chance to catch up with a few of the stars ahead of their first game

The first round of the National Rugby League Women’s Premiership season kicks off next Sunday and it’s shaping up to be a cracker of a season for the Newcastle Knights.

Fielding its first-ever NRL Telstra Women's Premiership side in the rescheduled 2021 season, the 2022 team will take to the field with a line up of fresh faces and rising stars determined to cement their positions within the team.

Round 1 kicks off on Sunday 21st August at McDonald Jones Stadium with the Newcastle Knights taking on the Brisbane Broncos.

Watch the action live with an epic triple header that will see NSW Cup Knights v Canberra Raiders from 1.30 pm. The NRL Knights will then hit the field against the Canberra Raiders at 4.05 pm and, as the lights come on the NRLW Knights will kick off their second season again the Brisbane Broncos at 6.15 pm. For further details view the Knights Game Day Itinerary here.

Ensure you don’t miss a moment of the action and show your support with a Supporter Membership from just $60pp or 2 Game Ticketed Membership from just $75pp including a member pack full of epic goodies, perks and benefits. Don’t forget the kids with Junior Membership from just $30 including an action packed NRLW Football Clinic with the whole team. Find out more.  

Ahead of the season we spoke to three of the team’s stars to find out how preparations are going and what they’re looking forward to most about season 2022.

MEET: Kirra Dibb

A Central Coast local, Kirra’s love of rugby league began watching her brother play in Copacabana’s local league. Keen to emulate his on field achievements Kirra quickly progressed through the younger grades before making her debut with the North Sydney Bears in the NSWRL Women's Premiership in 2019.

national rugby league womens premiership newcastle knights
Kirra Dibb

In 2020 Kirra moved across the Tasman to play for the New Zealand Warriors before to the Newcastle Knights in 2021. Kirra’s got some big goals this season, with her eyes firmly set on taking home the 2022 Premiership.

It must be nice playing close to home again, does having family nearby help with your preparation and enjoyment of the game? 

Absolutely it does! My parents are on the Central Coast and my brother lives in Newcastle, so having my family nearby is a great support to me. It’s really nice to be able to see them around training, it gives it a real homely feel.

Where game day is concerned, my family go to games wherever they are in the world – they don’t miss a game. We have two games in Newcastle and one on the Central Coast locked in this year so it’s great that they will have to travel less.

There’s quite a few new faces in the team this year, how confident are you about taking home the Premiership this year? 

I’m extremely confident we can give the Premiership a real shake up. What everyone sees from the outside is we have got the team to do it, but from the inside, we are all prepared to do the work required for each other, which is more important than just having names alone.

The preseason so far has been extremely promising when it comes to what it means for the season ahead. The squad has come together quickly and formed a real team first mentality which should make a real difference on game day.

MEET: Millie Boyle

Growing up in a footballing family, Millie watched from the sidelines as her dad and uncle (Jason Croker) played for the Canberra Raiders. It was these early years where Milie’s strong connection to the game began and ultimately the driving force behind Millie being selected at just 19 years of age to play in the 2017 Women's Rugby World Cup in Ireland, the youngest player ever to be selected.

In 2021 Millie was awarded the League’s most prestigious award, the Dally M Medal after averaging 198 metres per game and crossing for three tries.

Her experience and high energy approach to the game is set to guide the team throughout the season and hopefully emulate Millie’s Premiership winning performance in last year’s Australian and State of Origin debut wins. 

national rugby league womens premiership newcastle knights
Millie Boyle

Being selected to play Rugby Union for Australia at just 19 years of age and Rugby League at 21 is a huge achievement, what was the most memorable aspects of these experiences?

The best part about both was the pay off from all the effort growing up. I grew up in regional New South Wales which meant a lot of training by myself and travelling long distances for training and games. Not just for me but for my parents and family, and for the teachers and coaches that were there for me every step of the way. So to debut at such young ages was a thank you for all of their hard work and support as well as a reward for my efforts.

My debut game in Rugby was in New Zealand, off the bench against England. I was 19, it was totally surreal to be out there playing for Australia. I mean, I knew my job and that I had done the hard work to get there, so I wasn’t overawed or anything, but I was still pinching myself to be on that kind of stage.

My Rugby League test debut was also special as it was in Wollongong, so my family was able to come up from Bega. 2019 was a big year for me, it was my first year back in Rugby League and my first year in the NRLW, I played both union and league that year. That test match was the last one played before COVID hit. So it’s still special.

The first game of the season comes with a lot of anticipation, how do you manage the nerves and pregame build-up?

The most important thing for me is preparing well, and knowing that you have prepared well. Little things are so important, like making sure you have a good week or training, of sleeping and eating under your belt.

If you know that you have done everything you can to be ready to the best of your ability, so you can go into the game confident that there is nothing left to doubt or chance, then that’s the best way to manage nerves and ensure the best possible build up.

The other part of that is being a steady voice for the team, sending that same message to your teammates so everyone knows the hard work has been done and we are as ready as we can be for what’s to come.

MEET: Jesse and Hannah Southwell

Having just stepped off the plane from Birmingham, 17 year old Jesse Southwell, a former Knights Junior and Commonwealth Games Gold Medalist with the Rugby Sevens, Jesse’s signing completes the Knights 24-women squad. Playing alongside Jesse is NSW Origin representative, and sister Hannah Southwell who is herself a NSW Origin representative and Jillaroo.

Born and bred in Newcastle the sisters grew up playing for the Kotara Bears, and now the talented duo are back playing alongside one another and have set their sights on bringing home a premiership winning performance in 2022.
national rugby league women newcastle knights
Hannah and Jesse Southwell

With Jesse at five-eighth and Hannah positioned in lock you can expect some explosive action when they hit the field.

When was the last time you both played together? 

Jesse: We’ve played together a couple of times, once when she was in Under 18’s and I was just shoved in and played alongside her. And we also played together earlier this year in the Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership. It was super fun and she’s always got my back, she’s always got everyone’s back. I’ve been looking forward to playing with Han for as long as I can remember. She’s always been my role model and someone I have looked up to and I can’t wait to play alongside her in the NRLW. 

Jesse, you’ve only just arrived home from a Gold winning performance at the Commonwealth Games, have you had time for that experience and the achievement to sink in? 

Jesse: I don’t think it’s sunk in yet and I am not sure it will. I’m still kind of gobsmacked! It was such an amazing experience, getting to play alongside those girls was just a once in a lifetime type thing. I can’t wrap them enough, they’re honestly the best athletes, men or women, I have ever seen. 

Does the relationship change once you're on the field?  

Jesse: I know if Hannah misses a tackle or doesn’t do something right I will be right there to tell her she’s done something wrong! She’ll pull my head in too if I’m not doing the right thing as well, we just know that you’ve got to do your job, otherwise when you get home you’ll be ripped into!

Hannah: It’s very different! At training she says a few things and I’ll look over my shoulder and give her a dirty look! But she’s a halfback so what she says goes, I’m just really excited to see her control the field – I haven’t played with a halfback who does that as well as she can. 

As the team redefine the future of league watch them in action at McDonald Jones Stadium against the Broncos Sunday 21st Aug, 6.15pm and again for Round 3 against the Eels on Sunday 4th September, 12pm. Secure Your Seat Today.