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The Newcastle Knights made NRLW history at Accor Stadium on Sunday afternoon when they claimed their maiden premiership with a convincing 32-12 win over the Eels in the 2022 season decider.

Dally M rookie of the year Jesse Southwell led Newcastle's slick attack,  barnstorming prop Millie Boyle ran 271 metres and fullback Tamika Upton scored a try and ran for 181 metres on her way to collecting the Karyn Murphy Medal as player of the match.

In front of 42,921 fans in Homebush, it was the Eels who kicked off proceedings after a closely contested opening, when hooker Brooke Anderson scooted from dummy half and stepped inside Boyle to cross the stripe in the 12th minute of the match. 

After Tayla Preston shook off an early elbow injury, the rookie playmaker converted to make it 6-0.

Anderson opens the scoring

Knights winger Kiana Takairangi looked set to level the scores three minutes later but a superb one-on-one strip by Eels centre Abbi Church denied her.

Come the 17th minute and Takairangi made amends when she finished off some sharp footwork from Upton to score in the right hand corner. Kirra Dibb's sideline kick was wide and the Eels still held a two point lead.

Paki steps her way over

Three minutes later and the Knights looked to be flipping the script when Knight's other winger Emmanita Paki finished off a slick right side raid. Another wide conversion from Dibb left the score 8-6.

With eight minutes remaining in the half, the Knights went further ahead when 17-year-old Southwell put the ball on a platter for back-rower Romy Teitzel to score and Newcastle had a 14-6 lead with Dibb finding her range after two early misses.

Silky Southwell sends Teitzel over

Newcastle's response in the second half was immediate and brilliant to watch, when Tamika Upton stepped outside Preston to cross the stripe to put her side out to an 18-6 lead and become the NRLW's leading try scorer.

But in another twist of the tale - it was Eels skipper Simaima Taufa who took advantage of the Knights' turned backs and off a quick tap, darted her way to score under the posts. Preston took the conversion from in front to reduce the margin to six points at 18-12.

But the Knights ran away with the lead when Takairangi finished off a right-said raid to bring the score 22-12.

Southwell then put the icing on a brilliant performance when she crossed to score her second ever NRLW try.

On a memorable day for Southwell she became the youngest grand final winner in history at 17 years and 232 days. The record for the youngest male grand final winner is held by former St George five-eighth Bruce Pollard, who shared in the Dragons’ 1963 victory at the age of 18 and 40 days.

Match Snapshot 

  • The 2022 NRLW Grand Final broke crowd attendance records with 42,921 fans turning up to watch the clash.
  • Tamika Upton became the leading try-scorer in the history of the competition when she crossed over for her 12th NRLW try.
  • Eels rookie Tayla Preston finished the season with the most kick metres of any NRLW player the season. Preston has kicked 1,563 metres in six NRLW appearances.

Upton claims Karyn Murphy Medal

  • Parramatta centre Abbi Church showed desperation in defence for her side, with two try-saving tackles on Knights winger Kiana Takairangi.
  • Millie Boyle was once again a workhorse for the Knights with 242 run metres and two tackle breaks.
  • Kennedy Cherrington was a powerhouse for the Eels', finishing the day with 18 runs for 175 metres with two tackle breaks.
  • Newcastle back-rower Yasmin Clydsdale capped a historical NRLW year, winning the 2021 NRLW Premiership with the Roosters in April and the 2022 premiership with the Knights.

Southwell busts them open

Play of the Game

Up by 12 with 18 minutes of play left and the Knights were caught napping when Eels skipper Simaima Taufa exploited Newcastle's defence with a quick tap off the penalty. Taufa took advantage of the Knights' turned backs and darted her way to score under the posts to reduce the deficit and keep her side in the game. Tayla Preston popped the conversion over from in front to get the Eels back within six on the back of their captain's quick thinking.

Captain Courageous

What They Said

"I thought our girls were really brave to fight back like they did and give us a really good second half. When the momentum shifted the Knights got a real roll on and it hurt us a bit there. We just lost our way a little bit in the game and it made it a difficult one to crawl back in. Obviously the class Newcastle has got in their team stood out in some of the moments when opportunities came their way. We believed all the way along in this competition, even in Round 1, I saw the signs that there wasn’t going to be a team tougher than us and we were going to find a way to get there. We put ourselves in a position to win that game but unfortunately, a couple of close calls just didn’t go our way. -  Eels coach Dean Widders

“The legacy we want to leave for the girls is to leave that jersey in a better place than how you found it. The odds were against us from day dot, we didn’t have the biggest names with the signings, we recruited a lot from our own backyard and we trusted in our own system and we fought. We left all our heart there and the emotions show how much we care about the jersey.” – Eels captain Simaima Taufa

NRLW Eels: Grand Final

"We sat in our meeting room this morning and we showed 12 minutes of our defensive DNA efforts. When we started 11 weeks ago on a Saturday afternoon in Newcastle our first thought was every time we walk off the field we’ll be proud of the performance we put on out there. So nerves don’t come into it. We’d done the work, we’d front-loaded everything and we were confident today that if we walked off today and we were beaten it was by a team that deserved it more than us but we were also confident that we’d leave a performance out there that our community, club and team would be proud of.” - Knights coach Ron Griffiths

“It feels unreal. I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet. It’s such an amazing feeling and all of the girls have worked so hard for this moment, not only the girls that took the field but the rest of the squad and the development players. Obviously, it wasn’t the best start but something we’ve always pride ourselves on is our defence and attitude to never give up. Tamika, I said to her before the game. She’s my favourite player to play with. I just know she’s so safe and she has a straight face and just does what she needs to do.” – Knights captain Millie Boyle

NRLW Knights: Grand Final

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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