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Squad game: Knights NRLW analysis and best 17

Newcastle will head into the rescheduled 2021 NRL Telstra Women's Premiership underestimated by many but boasting a squad more than capable of causing a few upsets. 

The Knights have a strong mix of local talent, Kiwi representatives and Queenslanders ready to don the red and blue for their inaugural season in the competition. 

A total of 13 players in the squad are yet to make their NRLW debut but for some of those, they've already represented their country including promising five-eighth Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly, who starred on debut for the Kiwi Ferns in 2020. 

Stephens-Daly is one of nine players who have arrived from New Zealand for Newcastle's inaugural campaign.

Katelyn Vaha’akolo and Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly are among the Kiwi contingent at the Knights
Katelyn Vaha’akolo and Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly are among the Kiwi contingent at the Knights ©Knights

Her likely halves partner Charntay Poko is set for an exciting return to the NRLW after she finished her 2019 campaign at the Warriors with a competition-record 1120 kick metres in a season.

Former Bronco Romy Teitzel starred for the Gold Stars in Queensland's BHP Premiership in 2021, taking out the competition's player of the year award, and is a suitable option at fullback.

Former rugby sevens player Emma Sykes and AFLW convert Paige Parker are players to watch after moving down to Newcastle from Queensland.

Coached by Casey Bromilow, who has come through the Knights system with the Tarsha Gale Cup side, and assisted by Jess Skinner, there is enough talent in the squad to be competitive.

Romy Teitzel was the 2021 BHP Premiership player of the year
Romy Teitzel was the 2021 BHP Premiership player of the year ©Knights

Possible best 17

1. Romy Teitzel 2. Emma Sykes 3. Bobbi Law 4. Jayme Fressard 5. Katelyn Vaha'akolo 6. Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly 7. Charntay Poko 8. Annetta Nu'uausala 9. Krystal Rota 10. Ngatokotoru Arakua 11. Maitua Feterika 12. Charlotte Scanlan 13. Caitlan Johnston. Interchange: 14. Emma Manzelmann 15. Georgia Page 16. Kararaina Wira-Kohu 17. Kyra Simon.

Charlotte Scanlan, Krystal Rota and  Phoebe Desmond
Charlotte Scanlan, Krystal Rota and Phoebe Desmond ©Knights

Biggest strength

The Knights will field a starting forward pack that has all the representative experience required at either the state or international level. 

Kiwi Ferns props Annetta Nu'uausala and Ngatokotoru Arakua are a powerful combination upfront with experienced hooker Krystal Rota creative around the ruck.

The back row of New Zealand pair Maitua Feterika and Charlotte Scanlan add mobility on the edge while Caitlan Johnston has been regarded one of the most promising young talents coming through in the women's game.

Arakua and Feterika won premierships while at the Broncos in 2018.

Biggest question mark

The side's likely starting back five is inexperienced with just six NRLW games between them and probably lacks the strike that other sides have in an area that will need some attention.

The Knights took to the field on Monday for their first pre-season training session.
The Knights took to the field on Monday for their first pre-season training session.

Former Broncos outside backs Romy Teitzel and Jayme Fressard have had a taste of the NRLW and will need to go to another level in red and blue, particularly with their work-rate out of yardage. 

Nelson Bay product Bobbi Law is on the comeback trail after rupturing her ACL in 2020 but proved in her stint at the Roosters she can rise to any occasion.

Meet NRLW Knights assistant coach, Jess Skinner

Draw snapshot

Newcastle starts their campaign against fellow newcomers Parramatta in a triple-header at McDonald Jones Stadium on February 27.

In round three, they'll travel to the Sydney Cricket Ground and play against the Roosters in a double-header before the men's NRL game between both clubs.