What a time of the year this is. We’re into the NRL finals and also the start of the Women’s NRL Premiership competition.
In the men’s comp this weekend, I’m expecting the Broncos to beat the Dragons convincingly. They’re a bolter for this premiership.
The way they were playing the other day forces you to take notice. Corey Oates scored four tries and they were all on fire. Their forward pack has been grinding away and from 1-to-13 and the bench, all of the players are firing and they can actually fly under the radar a little in the finals because the focus is on the top four.
But it’s so tight and it’s so close, and there’s only four points separating first from eighth, so whoever drops their guard can receive a knockout blow.
Nothing Like Finals Footy
At this time of year, it’s so important to be ready to perform on the big stage. You’ve got to be ready because everyone else is ready.
You’ve got 17 on 17 blokes. It’s all about holding the ball and completing your sets come the semi-finals and making sure that every time you’re down there you’re counterattacking and scoring unanswered points and that’s the key.
It’s a great lesson in preparation and doing all the small things right throughout the year.
Come finals, all the work’s been done. Every one of those 25 rounds has come to this point right now. And if you win this week it’ll carry on.
But all of your plays, all of your moves, all of your rhythms and movements, all of your timing and anticipation, all of your line speed, all of your defence, your attack and the way you kick the ball, comes down to these games.
It can sometimes feel like groundhog day doing the important things over and over, but this is where it’s going to separate the best.
We’re going to see some close games and we’re going to see some games where the other side wasn’t even in it. And I think Broncos and the Dragons game will be that game. I think the Broncos will be one-way traffic.
NRL Women's Premiership
Equally exciting is the start of the NRL Women’s Premiership.
I reckon it’ll be a great weekend and all of the girls who are playing will really enjoy it and showcasing the game of women’s rugby league.
There’s no better time than to establish yourself than NRL semi-finals. The crowd’s going to be there and people are going to be watching it and you’re going to get a lot more viewers than what you do in the regular season.
And just the four teams, it’s the right start - crawl before you walk. You don’t want to go out too big and too deep and promise the world and deliver an atlas. You’d rather go out and year by year keep moving it forward.
Eventually I’d like to see every NRL team have a women’s team and have them play before the NRL men’s competition and I’d like to see a lot of young girls right across the country participate in rugby league and one day see them out there in the NRL women’s game. It’s the gateway to giving women’s rugby league players a professional career.
Beyond the entertainment, you have the social, the health and the mental health benefits throughout the winder sporting community, so the ripple effect is massive.
It’s gonna provide a lot of guidance and role models for younger girls, just like Johnathan Thurston has done for rugby league in general. One day we’re going to see a female Johnathan Thurston who’s going to take the rugby league world by storm and is gonna be an Immortal and who’s gonna be a role model on and off the field and I just can’t wait to see who that’s gonna be.
The women’s game has thrilled people at the Koori Knockout for years, so from the women’s NRL people can expect the unexpected.
The way they draw and pass, their footwork, their ball skills, their kicking game. Sit back and strap yourself in because it’s gonna be massive.
I just can’t wait for it to really kick off and I think it’s good for rugby league too, it breaks it up. You can sit back and watch a game of women’s rugby league before the big game. It’s something great that the whole family - your daughter, your wife, your sister - can all sit down and watch it with you.
Owen Craigie is a Gamilaroi man and former NRL star. Owen has played for the Newcastle Knights, Wests Tigers and South Sydney Rabbitohs. He is co-host of NITV's weekly Rugby League panel program, Over The Black Dot.
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