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Where the NRLW grand final will be won and lost

There are several key factors that could determine who lifts the NRL Holden Women's Premiership on Sunday. 

The Broncos have been the benchmark for two seasons and are looking to create history with back-to-back titles. 

But the emergence of the St George Illawarra Dragons in 2019 presents a new challenge with several factors likely to determine the result in the ANZ Stadium decider.

Where the NRLW title will be won and lost


The Dragons have conceded just seven penalties in 180 minutes of football this season, while they've earned an average of 6.7 per game in return.

Their 7-1 penalty count advantage last week drew criticism from Roosters coach Rick Stone, who didn't believe the Dragons were as well behaved as the numbers suggested.

Brisbane haven't been as well disciplined with 15 penalties earned and 19 conceded. 

Broncos forwards Rona Peters (5) and Amber Hall (4) have been among the biggest culprits in terms of penalties conceded.

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Experience matters

The Broncos have named 10 players who were part of their premiership-winning side last season, while Tazmin Gray played in the 2018 Roosters side that suffered defeat.

St George Illawarra will field three former Broncos who featured on grand final day last year in Brittany Breayley, Ngatokotoru Arakua and Maitua Feterika.

A total of 20 players across both clubs represented NSW and Queensland at the women's Origin in June, while a further four are Kiwi Ferns internationals.

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Fullback dual

It's a battle to saviour in the No.1 jerseys with Chelsea Baker and Botille Vette-Welsh set to play a huge role in their side's chances of lifting the trophy.

Baker has been noticeably quiet this season with no line breaks, no try assists and four errors to her name so look for an improved performance in the grand final.

Vette-Welsh is one of the in-form players of the competition with at least five tackle busts and 160 running metres each game.

Baker has experience on her side but the Broncos need her to go to another level. Vette-Welsh has the edge based on current form.

Goal kicking

Still on Baker whose struggles this season have also flowed to goal kicking with the sharp shooter slotting just three goals from 10 attempts in 2019. 

Her final attempt last week hit the posts from close range with the Broncos trailing 10-8 against the Warriors.

Baker kicked 15 goals last year at a 71% conversion rate and will need to convert four points into six against the Dragons with Maddie Studdon kicking at an impressive 87.5% over the past three games.

No Breayley hangover for Broncos

The Broncos have run the ball from dummy-half more than twice as often as the Dragons in 2019, which could come as a surprise given the Red V lured Australian Jillaroos hooker Brittany Breayley from Red Hill over the off season. 

Broncos centre Amy Turner (15) and hooker Lavinia Gould (12) lead the way for the side's overall total of 62. 

Breayley, who led the competition last year with an average of six carries out of dummy half per game, has only managed seven runs in three games for the Dragons so far.

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Keep the defence at sixes and sevens

Both teams have relied heavily on one dominant playmaker this season – in the case of the Broncos it's Ali Brigginshaw, while the Dragons' go-to player is halfback Maddie Studdon.

Brigginshaw (27) and Studdon (20) lead their teams for kicks, while Broncos five-eighth Raecene McGregor (14) and Dragons playmaker Keeley Davis (5) have played more supportive roles. 

Last year there was similar expectation on Brigginshaw in the grand final but it was her halves partner Kimiora Nati who dominated with a player of the match performance. 

Whoever steps up in the five-eighth role this season could prove the premiership-winning difference.

Edges v middle

St George Illawarra have found their mojo on both edges in attack with Kezie Apps and Tiana Penitani enjoying Maddie Studdon's services on the left side.

Keeley Davis is giving Dragons centre and 2019 Dally M medallist Jess Sergis enough chances on the right edge to cause havoc. 

Broncos back-rowers Annette Brander and Tazmin Gray have done a solid job for their team in defence but containing the Dragons' edges will be key if the defending champions want consecutive titles. 

The Broncos' advantage is their power game through the middle with the likes of Millie Boyle, Amber Hall, Rona Peters and Steph Hancock providing enough go-forward. 

If the Dragons can't contain that quartet then they'll have little chance to execute their own strengths.

Bench impact

The Broncos have a far more balanced and experienced bench than the Dragons leading into the grand final with three of their four interchange players part of last year's squad and boasting international and state experience.

Tarryn Aiken has played limited minutes as a utility but is a sharp playmaker with speed should the Broncos be searching for a point of difference late in the game. 

St George Illawarra have blooded all four players from their bench this season including 18-year-old Maddison Weatherall, who plays far beyond her years. 

Najvada George, a former Victoria resident, and Takilele Katoa, a Riverina product, are the unheralded names coach Daniel Lacey has helped develop throughout the season. 

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours 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.

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