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New Captain, New Faces and Same Winning Mentality Excites Strange

NRLW Head Coach John Strange has a host of new players and a new Captain at his disposal as the Roosters kick off an exciting new chapter in the women's game.

After claiming their inaugural title in the 2021 season played earlier this year, Strange's side has 3/4 of the squad retained and ready to defend their crown. 

Strange: "We Can't Wait to Get Into It Tomorrow"

Despite the shortened pre-season, the Premiership-winning mentor says that the side has adapted well and built upon their already devastating combinations and understanding. 

“It’s been really good,” he said.

“We’ve had a short pre-season, five weeks leading into our last Captain’s run today. But it’s been really positive and the girls have gelled really quickly.

“It’s been helped by the bulk of our squad having returned from our last campaign. Continuity from 2021. It’s massive, actually.

“I was really confident with the squad that we put together last season that even in Round 1 we’d go in and hit the ground running.

“I probably underestimated the fact that there were nine girls debuting, even though they were quality players, debuting took a little bit of time to gel with the other girls.

“Having just the two and those girls will be coming off the bench, and our starting thirteen have all played NRLW so they’ve got that experience.

“I think that will be valuable for us come 1pm tomorrow.”

They’re big shoes to fill I guess, but she’ll bring her own shoes to this squad and lead her way. She’s a really good leader; she talks well to the girls, they all respect her obviously and she leads with her actions.

John Strange On Isabelle Kelly's appointment as Captain

Two of those new faces come in the form of debutant duo Kalosipani Hopoate and Otesa Pule, who are set to take the field from the interchange bench in an exciting day for the Club.

Just months after lifting the Club's inaugural Tarsha Gale Cup trophy at Commbank Stadium, the pair will return to the venue to take the next steps in what will be fruitful careers in Red, White and Blue.

“Firstly with Pani, she only turned eighteen halfway through last season,”

“She wasn’t eligible until Round 4 and she was named to play in the semi-final against the Broncos but tested positive in our captain’s run.

"It was unfortunate for her but she’s been working really hard playing in the Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership and gained a lot of experience playing with women. At training, she hasn’t missed a beat and feels really part of it.

“Otesa Pule was player of the series for the Tarsha Gale competition with us at the Roosters, and she’s a bit of a weapon, to be honest. She’s very young and very athletic for her size.

“I’m looking forward to both those girls debuting tomorrow.”

With the fast-changing nature of the game, a trio of Premiership stars from 2021 will play different roles in Easts' 2022 campaign, with Isabelle Kelly taking the Captain's armband following the pregnancy of Corban Baxter.

Baxter alongside winger Brydie Parker - who sustained an ACL in the Grand Final victory - will join the coaching ranks, with the appointments a major boost to the squad, according to Strange.

2022 Tarsha Gale Cup Grand Final Highlights

“It’s no surprise for me,” he said about appointing Kelly as Captain. 

“I’ve coached Issy since 2020 with the Central Coast Roosters and she captained that side. She’s very calm, but she also leads with her actions as well which is very important for a Captain.

“They’re big shoes to fill I guess, but she’ll bring her own shoes to this squad and lead her way. She’s a really good leader; she talks well to the girls, they all respect her obviously and she leads with her actions.

“There won’t be any issues for Issy running the girls out against Parramatta tomorrow.

"Brydie was out with the ACL and Corbs is pregnant but it was important for us to keep those girls around. They’re great players – everyone knows that – but they’re quality human beings.

“The rest of the girls and especially the younger ones look up to those two. Bryds has come in helping out with a strength and conditioning role and Corbs with coaching.

“It’s really good to have them around and have their experience just to talk to the debutants around what is expected and to settle and calm them.

“It’s been great having them around.”

Acknowledgement of Country

Sydney Roosters respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.