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Five things to watch: Women's National Championships

The 2019 Harvey Norman National Championships kick off on Thursday with the tournament acting as the season's biggest selection trial for players and NRLW scouts to lock in female talent. 

The Championships can either make or break a players' chances for State of Origin selection or scoring a NRLW contract for the second season in September. 

Here are five things we'll learn this weekend. 

1. Will the Blues find their outside back replacements?

Incoming NSW coach Andy Patmore has more than one reason to attend the Championships with at least five spots up for grabs based on last year's inaugural side that beat Queensland 16-10 at North Sydney Oval. 

The Blues will be without Sam Bremner, Taleena Simon, Nakia Davis-Welsh (all pregnancies), Nita Maynard (ineligible) and stalwart five-eighth Lavina O'Mealey, who has retired.  

NSW City and Country hopefuls out to prove a point to replace the five will include the likes of NRLW players Shontelle Stowers, Jess Sergis, Keeley Davis, Rikeya Horne, Quincy Dodd and Shakiah Tungai.

2. Who will be next to take their chance? 

Australian Jillaroos representatives Holli Wheeler, Hannah Southwell (NSW Country) and Julia Robinson (ADF) were the big winners in 2018, using the tournament as a springboard towards state and international selection plus NRLW contracts by season's end.

The tournament also proved pivotal for Queensland teenager Rhiannon Revell-Blair, who was playing for the Maroons three weeks later after impressing in the games played for the Country side.

NRL Women's National Championship - Day one

3. Can a Queensland team reach the final?

The sunshine state was left red-faced in 2018 when neither Queensland City or Queensland Country played in the championship final despite hosting the tournament on the Gold Coast.

While the Queensland sides played off for third place, both NSW City and Country were warming up to play out for the trophy. 

Several Blues women thought the occasion gave them a psychological advantage heading into the Origin encounter three weeks later with rugby league in NSW proving the more dominant state with results last season. 

4. Will injuries be a talking point?

Last year's tournament came with its fair share of drama headlined with NSW leader Ruan Sims suffering a broken wrist and nose to be ruled out of Origin contention. 

The scheduling around the championships was criticised by both players and coaches with little time between games for each side to recover and prepare. 

Organisers have allowed an extra day's rest this year after taking feedback on board. Only time will tell how it all works out from a physical point of view. 

5. Can the Maroons find some fresh forwards?

Queensland coach Jason Hetherington is set to have the services of veteran forward Steph Hancock and Heather Ballinger for at least one more Origin campaign but he'll be searching for replacements for Rona Peters and Maitua Feterika after the pair were ruled ineligible due to their commitments to New Zealand. 

Hetherington will be searching for a couple of young forwards to stand up this weekend, especially against some of the tougher NSW opposition the state will face on June 21. 

For full details on the draw, click here. Matches will be live streamed via, with the final two matches of the Championship (on Sunday) broadcast on Fox League.

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St George Illawarra Dragons respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples, where our games are played, our programs are conducted and in the communities we support.

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