Round 1 of the Women's National Rugby League Premiership kicked off with a bang with two new teams getting their first ever win. The Wests Tigers thumped the Parramatta Eels 36-8 taking them to the top of the ladder and the Cronulla Sharks kicked off their 2023 campaign with a 28-14 win over the Canberra Raiders.
But the blockbuster game of the weekend saw the Sydney Roosters announce themselves to the competition with a 36-18 win over the Brisbane Broncos at Sunshine Coast Stadium. Here's your talking points.
A hero's welcome for returning stars
There was no better return than that of Botille Vette-Welsh for the Tigers on Sunday at CommBank Stadium. After an extended period on the sideline due to an ACL injury, Vette-Welsh was electric for the Tigers, scoring their first try and setting up another two against her former club. It was fitting reward for Vette-Welsh who has been such a big part of developing and growing women's rugby league at the Tigers.
Corban Baxter also returned for the Roosters, after giving birth to her second child earlier this year, stepping into the fullback position to replace Samantha Bremner (who retired last year). Baxter finished the game with two tries in a dominant display.
First send off in NRLW history
Ash Werner has perhaps become the answer to a future trivia question, as the first ever NRLW player to be sent off. Werner was sent from the field in the 54th minute of the Broncos loss to the Roosters for allegedly biting Jayme Fressard.
This one will be worth tuning into at the judiciary, as Werner clearly had her mouth open when Fressard's arm came into contact with her face, late. If Werner's mouth had been open, potentially this would have been enough to cause teeth marks on Fressard. Fressard reacted instantly and was adamant a bite had taken place with Roosters coach John Strange suggesting there were bite marks and blood on Fressard's arm.
Werner may have been the first player sent off but this is not the first biting incident in the NRLW, with Madison Bartlett getting a one-match ban for biting Sereana Naitokatoka in a previous season.
Experienced players show their class
With four new teams entering the competition this year, there has been plenty of new talent unearthed. But on the opening weekend it really was the established stars that stole the show.
Sarah Togatuki had immediate impact for the Wests Tigers when she came onto the field.
Millie Boyle scored the opening try for the Sydney Roosters after five minutes.
Emma Tonegato, for all the talk about her switch to five-eighth, struck early to score the Sharks first try.
Evania Pelite was also a stand-out for the Gold Coast Titans, running for 248 metres and 15 hit ups.
I also hope Steph Hancock never retires. The 41 year old made over 80 metres and made 16 tackles in just half an hour.
• Former Muay Thai champions Emily and Sophie Curtain ran out for the Wests Tigers, becoming the first twins in the NRLW to play for the same team. They faced off against sister-duo for the Eels, Kennedy and Rueben Cherrington.
• Madison Bartlett became the Canberra Raiders inaugural try scorer, getting the Raiders on the board just before half time. The try line is something Bartlett has no trouble finding as the leading try scorer in the NRLW.
• It was tough watching for Parramatta Eels fans with former players Simaima Taufa (Raiders), Ellie Johnston (Sharks), Tiana Penitani (Sharks), Gayle Broughton (Broncos) and Rikeya Horne (Tigers) having big impacts for their new clubs.
• After a first round win there is some concern for the Titans with Tahliah Fuimaono sustaining an ankle injury and Emily Bass also leaving the field injured.
Onto the Next
There are some exciting match-ups coming up in Round 2, with Cronulla taking on Wests Tigers as part of a double header at Belmore Sports Ground. Only one of those teams will remain undefeated at the end of Round 2.
The Broncos take on the Titans in the Queensland derby at the Gabba.
The Eels may have struggled in Round 1, but face a big test in the Dragons in Round 2. Unfortunately for the Eels, their two star recruits in Rachael Pearson and Elsie Albert were ruled out just before game day, but will hopefully return for their next game.
The men had also better take note because the NRLW players have taken 'Try July' to a new level. We saw the limbo, a bowling ball taking down a set of bowling pins and plenty of selfies with big smiles as the NRLW players celebrated on opening weekend.