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Host of international and NRLW experience bolsters Knights

New Zealand Kiwis duo Abigail Roache and Laishon Albert-Jones headline an influx of new talent signed for the nib Newcastle Knights Telstra Women’s Premiership defence in season 2023.

Roache and Albert-Jones were part of the Kiwi Ferns squad that reached the final of last year's 2021 Rugby League World Cup in England, with Roache featuring in the World Cup Final loss to Australia at Old Trafford.

A cross-code star, Roache took out the 2022 Cathy Friend Women's Player of the Year title, awarded to the Auckland Rugby League’s most outstanding player, for her efforts with the Richmond Roses during the season.

Equally adept at centre, five eighth or fullback, Roache – the sister of former New Zealand Warriors and Parramatta Eels NRL player Nathaniel Roache – joins the Knights fresh off a season with the Hamilton New Zealand-based Chiefs Manawa in the 2023 Super Rugby Aupiki competition.

Two test Kiwi Fern Albert-Jones – the niece of Kiwis legend Stacey Jones – scored a try and kicked three goals in her international debut against Tonga midway through the 2022 season, after also taking out the Cathy Friend Women's Player of the Year award in 2021.

She was named at five eighth in the Auckland competition’s team of the year in 2022 but has also featured at lock for Mounties in the Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership.

The 2023 season will be the pair’s first at NRLW level.

“Abigail is an astute defensive backline player who on the back of strong year in the Auckland competition gained selection in the New Zealand world cup squad,” Knights NRLW head coach Ronald Griffiths says.

“She has a great attitude and desire to continue to develop into a world class player, and her ability to play multiple positions well will make her a valuable commodity and one we will harness.

“Laishon turned a strong World Cup campaign and a desire for continued growth into a Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership campaign with Mounties this season and finished with a Premiership to her name.

“She is a shrewd ball playing lock who is equally proficient in the halves, and her skill set and deft touch with the boot will hold her in good stead for a great season.”

Also linking with the Knights in 2023 are ex-Parramatta duo, prop Rima Butler and centre Tamerah Leati.

Front rower Butler featured in five NRLW matches for the Eels in her debut season in 2022, scoring a prototype prop’s try against the Gold Coast Titans and lining up against the Knights from the interchange bench in the Grand Final at Accor Stadium.

Named Wentworthville’s Best and Fairest at Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership level in 2021, Butler will add steel to the Knights forward pack this season.

Up and comer Leati is a graduate of Parramatta’s pathways system, with the All Saints Toongabbie junior named best back in the Eels Tarsha Gale squad in 2021 before graduating to the Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership with Wentworthville this season.

“Rima’s undoubted talent saw her selected in the NSW City Origin team last week on the back of a strong Harvey Norman season,” Griffiths said.

“The opportunity for her to play alongside our established forwards was extremely enticing, and she is an astute signing on the back of strong Grand Final appearance against the Newcastle Knights last season.

“Tamerah is a strong ball running centre who is used to putting herself outside her comfort zone.

“She has shown great commitment to developing her rugby league career moving from Queensland to NSW for an opportunity to progress and she has earned this shot.”

Rounding out this latest bout of signings are rising stars and Queensland Under 19’s 2022 representatives Jayde Herdegen and Felila Kia.

Herdegen is a crafty five eighth or halfback from the Wynnum-Manly club who has long been earmarked as a potential future NRLW star, going back to before she scored the winning try for Queensland Country to beat Queensland City at under 17 level in 2021.

Hard running, hard hitting centre Kia is another Wynnum-Manly product, featuring in seven BMD Premiership matches this season. She was also a Queensland and Australian champion Discuss Thrower as a junior and was ranked number one in the world for her age at 16.

“Jayde is a talented player with great vision,” Griffiths said.

“She has shown great progress at such a young age and will start at five eighth with Wynnum-Manly in the BMD Premiership Grand Final this weekend. She has also been selected again in the Queensland Sapphires to play in the National Championships.

“Felila is a multi-talented athlete who can play multiple positions and has the ability to influence games with her strong defence and destructive ball running.

“She is a hard-working humble person who will flourish in an elite environment.”

The Knights final signings for NRLW season 2023 will be announced in coming weeks, ahead of the start of pre-season training on 29 May.