The ‘sisterhood’ is alive and well in the Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Origin camps this week – and we mean literally as well as philosophically.
While NSW State of Origin skipper Kezie Apps was on hand to welcome the Under-18s into the NSWRL Centre of Excellence today, older sisters were lurking not too far away.
Senior players Shaylee Bent (Mounties) and Shakiah Tungai (Port Kembla Blacks) welcomed younger siblings Janaya Bent (Wests Tigers) and Rhiannon Tungai (Illawarra Steelers) to their first NSWRL rep side.
NSW U18s coach Daniel Lacey also has twins Emily and Sophie Curtain (Wests Tigers) in his squad.
The NSW U18s take on the Queensland U18s (kick-off 5.45pm) as the curtain raiser to the second Holden State of Origin match (kick-off 7.45pm) at North Sydney Oval on Friday night.
The history-making Under-18s match is something not lost on Lacey. He wants his players to understand the significance of what they’re about to do, while at the same time trying to corral the excitement and euphoria a little.
“For a lot of the girls here this is their first camp, or a camp of this magnitude,” Lacey told NSWRL.com.
“At our first team meeting today we stressed the importance of the camp and the expectations. It’s a big leap for them. They get to start in this first interstate match… trailblazers… and that sort of stuff. So we’re going with that mentality.
“But we also want to make sure they are well-prepared but not over-prepared. We don’t want to over-train them and mentally they’re playing the game too early.
“So we kind of do the opposite of what you might think we need to do in that scenario. We’ll bring them back to earth, make the camp fun, and hope that brings the best out in them because they are all individually brilliant.”
The family connections are an added bonus, which don’t mean instant success.
“Just because you’ve got sisters, or you are siblings, doesn’t necessarily mean instant cohesion. But it does bring confidence to the group, and the confidence in themselves that they’re from a good league background and family,” Lacey said.
“That sort of confidence will just rub off, and be contagious, for everyone else.”
Lacey confesses he’s never had this many blood links in a squad he’s coached.
“There are a lot of young, talented players in the game who all have such good stories, but I’ve never coached this kind of family connections. A lot of the time these things do pop up,” he said.
“But they are no flukes. Everyone here worked hard to get to this game. Yes, there are family links but each player has their own individual story. There are no token positions here.”
There is no Harvey Norman Tarsha Gale-equivalent competition in Queensland but the Maroons would be well-versed in the NSW matches.
“We’ve had lots of chances to look at our players through Tarsha Gale games. Queensland will probably have been watching those matches too so they’ll have a bit of a leg up on us,” Lacey said.
“Collectively we’ve got great outside backs and really strong, dangerous halves with a good kicking. And we’ve got Tarsha Gale player of the year, in prop Maddison Weatherall (Illawarra Steelers) who recently signed with the NRLW Dragons.
“So there are very good signs for the future in what’s coming through for (NSW Women’s Origin coach) Andy Patmore.