A potential rivalry in the making looms in round one of the Holden Women's Premiership with defending premiers Brisbane facing the Dragons at Bankwest Stadium on Saturday.
The clash is part of a double-header with the blockbuster Eels-Broncos NRL clash, giving Broncos' fans travelling to Parramatta a great excuse to get to the ground early.
The Broncos secured a 14-0 trial win over the PNG Orchids in Port Moresby as preparation in August and got the result against the Dragons 30-4 in the corresponding game last year.
St George Illawarra finished fourth in 2018 with a lone victory against the Warriors but big things are expected with a host of new recruits at their disposal.
Dragons: St George Illawarra are 1-17, with a new-look spine and five players to make their NRLW debut. Rising Indigenous All Stars forward Shaylee Bent wins a back row spot alongside Kezie Apps, pushing Teuila Fotu-Moala to start at prop. Kimiora Nati partners Maddie Studdon in the halves.
Broncos: Brisbane are also 1-17. Six players are in line for their NRLW debut, while new recruits Annette Brander and Tazmin Gray will start in the back row. Veteran forward Heather Ballinger has missed the cut. Chelsea Lenarduzzi (ankle) and Julia Robinson (leg) continue their way back from injury. Lavinia Gould replaces Dragons-bound hooker Brittany Breayley in the vacant No.9 jersey.
Origin rivals Maddie Studdon and Ali Brigginshaw will clash for the second time this season after Studdon got the upper hand in the representative clash at North Sydney Oval. Studdon endured a difficult campaign at the Roosters last year but has found a new lease of life this season and her move to the Dragons gives her another fresh opportunity to play well. Both players' kicking games will be vital to the result.
For the Dragons to win
Their big guns will need to fire against a more stable Broncos forward pack that has experience on their side regardless of the personnel lost. The Dragons haven't played a trial game compared to the Broncos so will need to sort their combinations out early across the park. The strike power is certainly there, but cohesion will be the key.
For the Broncos to win
The defending champions can win by sticking to the basics that helped them dominate last year. There is a big hole left by more than six starting players from last year who have departed but the bonus is the players coming in – like Annette Brander and Tazmin Gray – are experienced enough and have played alongside a core group of the players before at state and international level.
Remarkably, both sides averaged some similar numbers in basic areas like runs and metres for 2018 but the Dragons lacked in a couple of noticeable departments that outlined the difference between them. The Broncos created more in attack with 3.5 extra line engaged runs per game and a further 4.5 line breaks per outing.
And another thing ...
In case you missed it, the Dragons will feature five former Broncos players who won a premiership with the club last season. Expect a bit of spice in this contest with a lot of people left surprised by their departures from Red Hill.
Tarsha Gale's prediction
I think the Dragons will start the season strongly by defeating last year's premiers.They have an unstoppable forward pack that boasts the likes of Kezie Apps, Holli Wheeler and Maitua Feterika. With the forwards going forward I'm expecting the classy backline of Maddie Studdon, Shakiah Tungai and Jess Sergis to have plenty of opportunity to show the crowd exactly why they are superstars of our game. NRLW debutante Tiana Penitani will also show that she knows the way to the try line. The Broncos won’t give up without a fight but will miss some of the strength they had in the forwards last year. Dragons by 8