Young talents who have made their mark in the Queensland Rugby League’s under 19 pathways will get a taste of State of Origin this year.
Harvey Norman Queensland Maroons coach Tahnee Norris is excited to see what the fresh crop can bring to the team.
In her first year at the helm of the Maroons, Norris - QRP #22 - has named the 2021 squad and has seen first-hand the development of players Destiny Brill and Tiana Raftstrand-Smith.
Both youngsters started the 2021 season in the Harvey Norman Under 19 competition, before turning out in an epic BHP Premiership grand final only two weekends ago.
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“I have been lucky enough to coach Tiana all season with the Burleigh Bears, so I have seen her progress throughout this year and I have seen her in the junior programs coming through the system as well and she’s an absolute talent,” Norris said.
“She has got so many skills and she can play in a number of different roles for us and I am really looking forward to putting her out there on the field... she is an aggressive player, so I think that will really suit her.
“And we have Destiny, again, another who has come through the Under 19s program and been exposed to that on the representative level and we get another opportunity to see her take the next step and represent the Maroons.
“She is going to be really exciting to watch... she’s got some many good attributes about her and I have been really impressed with how she’s played the BHP Premiership season and being such a young player in a crucial role, so am looking forward to seeing her play.”
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Other new additions to the 2021 squad in Romy Teitzel and Natassja Purontakanen have also been performing strongly in the BHP Premiership.
However, with 15 players returning from last year’s victorious squad – including 10-game veteran and captain Ali Brigginshaw – Norris, who played for Queensland between 2001 and 2013, will be looking to the experienced players to provide guidance to the young players.
“They have been around a long time and the bulk of those players were part of that women’s side last year and so I think they really know what it means to represent Queensland and how important it is to throw on a Maroons jersey and I think that’s crucial for showing young kids the way," Norris said.
“They are quality players and they can really step up at this level and I think having those girls in those combinations that were part of the team last year that won is very crucial for us, so I think that is important.”
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This year, the players will also take part in various community visits during camp, including the Harvey Norman Queensland Maroons Fan Day at Mooloolaba Beach.
“It’s great they are actually seen as role models now and young fans know who they are,” Norris said.
“It’s exciting that they can have a fan base and the general public get behind them and they really support the girls.”
With camp kicking off today, however, players and staff will be placing a keen focus on preparing for next Friday night’s game at Sunshine Coast Stadium, with plenty of work still to do before the big match.
Match: QLD Maroons v NSW Women
Round 1 -
Venue: Sunshine Coast Stadium, Sunshine Coast
“I think there is still so much to go through in the camp and we have to work out our exact positionings on where we want to be, but the combinations are coming together,” Norris said.
“But it gives us a really good opportunity to have some really good hit outs on the Sunshine Coast and [we are] looking forward to the local crowd, it’s fantastic to be home again to being playing in front of a big crowd at the Sunshine Coast.”