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Blues 'shattered' but in awe of Apps, Kelly and Hilder

NSW were "shattered" after falling short of an epic State of Origin comeback against Queensland, but coach Andy Patmore lauded the "amazing" feats of a few players.

Patmore lamented the fact his team didn't attack the edges more often in the 24-18 loss at Sunshine Coast Stadium given they scored three tries in the final 11 minutes after starting to "play some footy".

But while the Blues couldn't retain the Harvey Norman Women's Origin shield for the third consecutive year, they'll be able to draw inspiration from the efforts of captain Kezie Apps, Isabelle Kelly and Kylie Hilder well into the future.

Apps and Kelly suffered knee and ankle injuries respectively in round two of Dragons' NRLW campaign in October and Patmore said the star duo "couldn't walk two weeks ago".

Second-rower Apps scored a try and made a game-high 36 tackles and centre Kelly recorded 114 run metres.

Apps gets the bounce from a Howard kick

"They were both in braces coming into camp," Patmore said.

"What they've done and the commitment they've made with the medical staff … they both played 70 minutes tonight and a quality 70 minutes.

"We had our talks and they were specially mentioned by all the girls; a huge round of applause and thank-you for those two. Kezie Apps is a great credit to the game, the way she spoke post-game – she's hurting big-time [but] she's just a class act.

"And Isabelle Kelly's the same. These girls are great role models for all the kids that are playing. They're exceptional athletes, men or women, so they should be held in that esteem."

NSW centre Isabelle Kelly.
NSW centre Isabelle Kelly. ©Jason O'Brien/NRL Photos

Hilder, 44, retired from Origin after last year's win and was set to be the trainer this time around until Keeley Davis withdrew due to a back injury. She stepped in to start at hooker and got through a quality 57 minutes.

"She only got brought into the team three days ago," Patmore said.

"Super fit, as you can see. She could play, I say, until 50. But she's an incredibly fit person, knows her footy, is a great leader amongst our group and she's been great for the group all week, bringing those young girls in and really being a mentor to them.

"And she'll be on our coaching staff forever. She's cemented her spot, does a lot of community work with girls' footy and I hope one day soon she's sitting in my chair.

"I said to her I don't have a lot of regrets, but last year I had a regret because I didn't play her long enough. She spent a bit of time on the bench and she deserved to play more footy.

"And then the bizarre world of footy, I get to play her again this year and give her a big opportunity to play long minutes. She's happy as in there having played but obviously hugely disappointed."

Match Highlights: Maroons v Blues

Patmore sat down at his media conference and expressed his reluctance to discuss the omission of halves Kirra Dibb and Maddie Studdon having been asked about it ad nauseum before the clash.

But he stood firm in his decision to pick players "based off form" and said halfback Melanie Howard and five-eighth Corban McGregor handled themselves well.

"We had our Sydney-based comp, the Harvey Norman, and also the NRW – the girls that are playing the best deserve to be picked," he said.

"The two tonight – Corbs's defence was outstanding. Mel had some great runs and some great touches of the footy. We just didn't do it enough and we didn't get to the edges enough."

Patmore described debutante forward Filomina Hanisi, who was terrific off the bench as she made the leap from playing under-18s Origin last year, as a future "superstar".