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Whitfeld and Weale bolster NRLW recruitment drive

The nib Newcastle Knights have confirmed two more signings for the 2022 Telstra Women’s Premiership, in 21-year-old Australian Rugby Sevens representative Jakiya Whitfeld and 20-year-old West Brisbane Panther and former Queensland Under 19 backrower Makenzie Weale.

A product of Bathurst’s Mackillop College, Whitfeld has been on the World Rugby Sevens circuit with the Australian team since 2019 having been introduced to the sport in her early teens.

She quickly graduated from the Western Region Academy of Sport to Sydney University’s AON Uni 7’s program, making her Australian World Series debut in Cape Town just months after completing her HSC in 2019.

That side also contained future Knights teammate and NRLW Premiership winner Yasmin Clydsdale and reigning joint-Dally M Medal winner Emma Tonegato.

After a 2020 disrupted by COVID and a knee reconstruction, Whitfeld was unlucky to miss out on Olympic selection in 2021 and joins the Knights off the back of appearances in the Dubai, Malaga, Seville and Langford legs of the 2022 World Sevens series, the last of which was alongside Knights young gun and Tarsha Gale Cup star Jesse Southwell.

A speedy outside back with unique try scoring ability, the 2022 NRLW season will be Whitfeld’s top level rugby league debut having dabbled in the sport as a teenager.

20-year-old Makenzie Weale is in line for her NRLW debut after featuring in each of the last three BMD Premiership Seasons for the West Brisbane Panthers.

Makenzie Weale in new colours
Makenzie Weale in new colours

Weale represented Queensland Under 19’s in 2021 alongside fellow Knights squad member Emmanita Paki, and was also a member of the 2019 Queensland Academy of Sport Under 18’s squad that also featured Knights hooker and 2022 North Queensland Gold Stars premiership winner Emma Manzelmann.

A product of the West Arana Hills club and Mt. Maria College Mitchelton, Weale has played 14 matches all up for the Panthers including six in the 2022 season, five of which saw her complete full 70-minute stints.

The hard running back rower or centre averaged 136 run metres a game during 2022 and has crossed for four tries in her career to date.

Her quality was identified early, with Weale one of a dozen 17-year-old players given exemptions to play underage in the state-based competition in 2020, on account of their advanced skills. She’s also dabbled in rugby sevens, having represented the University of Queensland in the Uni 7’s competition in 2019.