Fitter, Faster, Stronger. That's the mantra at every NRLW club as players and coaches prepare for the start of the second Holden Women's Premiership this weekend.
"The pre-season has been awesome, we worked our way through a lot of fitness and a lot of hard work," Broncos winger Meg Ward said.
"One of our main goals was to get really fit and I think we have achieved that. We put together a really good pre-season program under the coaches and the girls are looking really fit and really strong."
It’s been the same across the four teams, with testing results indicating an increase of up to 15% in upper and lower body strength for the likes of St George Illawarra’s Rikeya Horne, Brisbane’s Julia Robinson and Sydney Roosters captain Simaima Taufa.
NRL.com has obtained testing data to highlight the best performing Broncos, Dragons and Roosters players in the categories of fitness, strength and speed ahead of the second NRLW season.
The Warriors declined to share any information from their testing but players said improving their fitness had been a focus of pre-season training.
"Last year myself and the team probably weren’t as fit as we could have been but this year just feels different and I think that we have definitely improved in our fitness," Warriors second-rower Tanika-Jazz Noble told NRL.com.
Winger Hilda Mariu said: "This season the Warriors are going to be fitter, faster, smarter."
With a 40% turnover of talent from last season’s inaugural NRL Holden Women’s Premiership, players know they need to continue improving to maintain their positions.
In the past, some players had been resistant to weights training but exposure to high performance training programs has changed those attitudes.
Jillaroos strength and conditioning coach Simon Buxton said highlighting the achievements of the NRLW stars in the gym and on the training field was beneficial for the continued development of the women’s game as it showed what aspiring players need to strive to achieve.
"The fitness standards of the Australian team have gone up and the girls are meeting those standards with their aerobic fitness and since they have been in structured training programs they have become stronger," Buxton said.
"We regularly do testing and we are seeing increases of five to 10 to 15% per year in the upper and lower body strengths of the elite women."
The Broncos use the 30-15 intermittent test to measure fitness. The 30-15 is a shuttle-type beep test which requires players to run 40 metres in 30-second intervals, with 15 seconds passive recovery. The first 40 metres is performed at 9km/h, with the speed increasing incrementally by 0.5km/h.
The best performers were rookie second-rower Jessika Elliston and Olympic rugby sevens gold medallist Amy Turner, each ran to the 20.5 level.
Jillaroos fullback Chelsea Baker and rookie playmaker Tarryn Aiken, an Australian touch football representative, hit 29km/h at training.
Prop Amber Paris-Hall (180kg deadlift x 3 Repetition Maximum), Wallaroos representative Millie Boyle (120kg squat x 3 RM), Jillaroos winger Julia Robinson (85kg bench press), frontrower Chelsea Lenarduzzi and second-rower Tazmin Gray (both 90kg bench press) have been the best performers in the gym.
St George Illawarra NRLW strength and conditioning coach Chris Jaffrey reports the three standouts have been Jillaroos hooker Brittany Breayley, NSW captain Kezie Apps and boom utility Keeley Davis, who have all ran an 18 in the 30-15 intermittent fitness test.
Davis has the greatest acceleration, which is a good attribute to have for someone who plays halfback or hooker. Her times are 5m: 0.99secs, 10m: 1.77secs and 20m: 3.09secs.
Although the Dragons haven't tested through the 20-40m range, Jaffrey said centre Jess Sergis would be the quickest over those distances. Sergis has reached the fastest maximum velocity of 8.2 metres per second, according to GPS data.
The player with the greatest relative strength (strength-to-bodyweight ratio) is Rikeya Horne. She can squat 140kg for three repetitions, which is over double her body weight. Horne has also completed seven repetitions of weighted pull-ups with an additional 10kg.
The Roosters said they had not done the same level of testing as other teams as their players had been tested in Jillaroos camps or at their Harvey Norman NSW Premiership clubs.
"I liken [the NRLW] to three mini-Origins, with a grand final at the end," Roosters coach Rick Stone said.
"A lot of these girls have had some Origin experience and some representative experience so it is a bit like a rep camp where you have a short window of opportunity to get them ready, and you have got to make sure they can hit the ground running and play their best."
Rookie NSW five-eighth Kirra Dibb ran 19 in the 30-15 Intermittent Fitness Test at last month’s Jillaroos camp on the Gold Coast. "She is very fit," Buxton said.
Star centre Isabelle Kelly, the 2018 Golden Boot award winner as the best female player in the world, has run 20 metres in 2.97 seconds and is the fastest Jillaroos player, according to Buxton.
Buxton said Roosters captain Simaima Taufa was the strongest female player he had tested. The lock has performed a 160kg back squat x 3RM. "She can do a predicted 1RM up around 180kg, which is over two times her body weight," he said.