It’s the two-storey house hosting seven Dragons players that skipper Kezie Apps believes has played a big part in the side’s resurgence in the NRL Telstra Women’s Premiership this season.
Apps is one of seven ‘out of town’ players and staff members who share a house in Gwynneville, less than a 10 minute drive to their training facilities at WIN Stadium.
Her housemates include PNG powerhouse Elsie Albert, Kiwi international Madison Bartlett and Queensland quartet Kody House, Shellie Long, Meg Ward and Natassja Purontakanen.
Ward, who is now an assistant coach, and Purontakanen, were due to play for the Dragons this season but withdrew because of injury.
“We call ourselves the 'Gwynnie gang',” Apps tells NRL.com.
“I’d be lying if I said we all weren’t sure how it was going to go but it’s been the best thing ever to get to know each other more and to live with people from different cultures.
"That's really important for players who relocate to a club, to feel like they're at home. Especially for someone like Elsie. She’s really come out of her shell since living in the same house as us and feels comfortable.
“You can tell in her footy too, she’s killing it. It’s probably been the most I’ve enjoyed a campaign, and it comes down to the house as well, being comfortable and not having to work as much.”
Apps, who has relocated from Bega for this season, said it was Bartlett who the household turns to for most of the family dinners.
“We all take turns but Mads is probably the best,” she said. “We call her Gordon Ramsey because she just turns into a different person in the kitchen.
“We’re still waiting for Elsie to cook. Meg Ward isn’t a great so she does most of the cleaning.”
The off-field bond at the Dragons has been just as important for their on-field performances this season after they failed to win a game in the 2020 campaign.
The core group of players still at the club like Apps, Albert, Keeley Davis and Shaylee Bent were front and centre of the side’s lowest point but have been among the best under Jamie Soward this year.
Apps, Bent, Davis and Holli Wheeler are the only players left from the Dragons squad that were beaten by the Broncos in a sudden-death scenario on NRLW grand final day in 2019.
Ahead of their semi-final showdown with the Titans on Sunday, Apps said experience will play a part in the result.
“I can only talk to the girls about that experience and we can talk about it because anything can happen on those big occasions,” Apps said.
“Some big game experience will be good and be important for Sunday’s game and the grand final. Hopefully the younger girls will step up and not let the pressure get to them.”
Apps remained in awe of Dragons fullback Emma Tonegato, who has taken the NRLW by storm this season after returning to the code for the first time since 2013.
NRLW Teams: Dragons v Titans
Tonegato could line up against former rugby sevens teammate Evania Pelite for the second time on Sunday if the Titans fullback overcomes an ankle injury.
The Titans struggled without their star outside back last week in a 14-10 win over the Knights but Apps expected the opposition to be different to when the sides first met in round one.
“I guess we can take something out of that match but all the teams have improved over the last five weeks so we can’t take any team lightly,” Apps said.
“We played terrible against the Roosters and still ended up winning somehow. Our completion rate was terrible. We can’t be playing like that in the finals or we won’t last long.”