Women's Rugby League will no doubt experience its most groundbreaking year in 2022 - and for Roosters stalwarts Corban Baxter and Hannah Southwell, it can't come any sooner.
In an otherwise disappointing year in 2021 which saw the NRLW competition postponed, the experienced Roosters duo have set their sights on next year which will be remembered as the one with the busiest schedule.
With two NRLW competitions, a Harvey Norman Women's Premiership, State of Origin and a World Cup, their jam-packed year only adds to the excitement for the two NRLW favourites.
“I can’t wait. It’s going to be a massive year ahead but it’s very exciting," beamed Southwell.
“To finally expand is fantastic and the Women’s game is going in a great direction. We’ve got a lot of great leaders in the game.
I think it’s fantastic that we’ve got the Broncos first up in Round 1, I can’t wait to face them again. There’s a bit of unfinished business there between the two clubs.
“We’ve got a really good young squad and I can’t wait to show what we’ve got.
“The more airtime we can get the better.”
I’ve been waiting for the day we get to play before the boys, so I’m really excited for that and to play here will be awesome in front of some home fans. I’m really pumped for that round.Corban Baxter Sydney Roosters NRLW Captain
“It’s a bit mind-boggling looking at it," Baxter added.
"I’m really excited for it. There’s been a lot of time off and we might get a bit ahead of ourselves so it’s about being smart about our bodies and recovering properly to get to the end because it’s a big year.
“It’s exciting, the fact that we’ve got some growth happening and more teams is great for the game. Breaking it down to the Gold Coast, Newcastle and Parramatta; they’ve got some great recruits both experienced players and some fresh faces too.
“I’ve looked at their squads and they’re looking super strong but I’m really keen to challenge ourselves against such strong sides."
Baxter Excited for Growth of Women's Game
Much of the excitement for Southwell and Baxter stems from the Club's pathways system coming to fruition, with John Strange taking the mantle as Head Coach and a host of youngsters from his undefeated Central Coast Roosters side making the step up to the NRLW, joining a number of experienced representatives in what will be a formidable squad.
“It’s massive. We’ve been training together for our third year with Strangey," said Southwell.
“He’s a fantastic coach, he’s the best coach I’ve ever had and I think he’s an absolute legend. I can’t wait to see what we can do in the 2021 season because I know that he’ll get us prepped and ready.
“There’s a few girls especially from the Coast, so there’s a few young talented girls that are coming through.
“There are a few girls who were on development last year but they’ve come through and secured a spot in our squad. It’s very exciting to see what the talent is."
“This will be my fourth year at the Roosters. There’s such a great vibe here; it starts when you walk into the doors and on a wider spectrum as well. You always feel the love when you walk into Roosters HQ,” Baxter added.
“We have a lot of the Central Coast girls who have had a lot of success in the Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership so a lot of fresh faces and I’m excited to see them perform on the NRLW stage as well.
“It was good to see some new faces and have Strangey join us in his first gig as Head Coach which was awesome. We had a taste of that last year when he was our assistant so I’m really excited to have him with us.
“Jess (Sergis) is a class player, she’s proven that over the last few years and I love playing with her. I started playing with her around five or six years ago so to have her in the NRLW with me is exciting.
Southwell Set on Central Coast Connection
“Issy (Kelly) is one of my best mates too. It was a bit sad when she left us last year but it’s great to have her back in the Roosters colours as well.”
History will be made at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Saturday, March 12 when both the NRL and NRLW sides play a double header against the Newcastle Knights - which will be the first instance the Club has had the two sides playing alongside one another in a regular competition round.
The event is no doubt a standout for the pair, signifying the exponential growth the Women's game has undertaken over the last eighteen months - highlighted by the recent addition of City Index on both the men's and women's jerseys.
“I’ve been waiting for the day we get to play before the boys, so I’m really excited for that and to play here will be awesome in front of some home fans. I’m really pumped for that round," Baxter said.
“There’s always talk about making sure we do it properly and have a sustainable competition, and I 100% agree with that.
“I think over the first three years we’ve proven that we’ve got a really strong comp, and that’s why we have a few new teams for the 2021 season, and I just hope it continues to grow.
“I’m happy with where we’re at now, but the ultimate goal is for girls to do this as a full-time professional career choice. Hopefully, before I retire, we can get towards that.
He’s a fantastic coach, he’s the best coach I’ve ever had and I think he’s an absolute legend. I can’t wait to see what we can do in the 2021 season because I know that he’ll get us prepped and ready.Hannah Southwell On Head Coach John Strange
“I know a lot of us juggle so many things; family, work, training, second jobs. It’s tough, but that’s what comes with it and it’s moving in the right direction which is all we can ask for."
“It’s huge," Southwell quipped.
“It’ll be an interesting crowd and to have the boys playing as well I think is just going to bring a different arena to the game that’s never been played before.
“I’m excited, I can’t wait to play footy."