Newcastle have secured back-to-back NRLW premierships after coming from behind to down the Gold Coast Titans 24-18 in a thrilling contest at Accor Stadium.
Led by star fullback Tamika Upton, the Knights scored three tries in the space of seven minutes to close out the first half before their star number one crossed for two late tries to secure a second consecutive title for her side.
The win sees Newcastle become just the second team in NRLW history to win back-to-back premierships – following Brisbane's success from 2018 to 2020 – while Upton also earned her own slice of history by becoming the first player to win four titles and the first to win back-to-back Karyn Murphy Medals.
Yasmin Clydsdale, Tayla Predebon and Olivia Higgins also secured their third consecutive titles after wins at the Roosters (2021) and Knights (2022).
After finishing last on the ladder in 2022, Gold Coast coach Karyn Murphy will no doubt feel plenty of pride in her young side's performances this season but they were unable to hold on against a well-drilled Knights outfit.
Tamika Upton Try
In scorching conditions at the former Olympic venue, the Titans started the contest the better of the two sides and broke the deadlock after 14 minutes when Lauren Brown turned the ball underneath for a hard-running Jamie Chapman to crash over.
Zara Canfield would push the lead beyond a converted try after 20 minutes when she slotted a penalty goal following a hair pull from Hannah Southwell, which also saw the Knights skipper placed on report for the incident.
The defending premiers would quickly hit back, however, with a flurry of points to close out the first half – crossing for three tries in the space of seven minutes to take a four-point lead into the half-time sheds.
As she was in 2022 in her Karyn Murphy Medal winning performance, Upton was again the chief architect, first beating Lauren Brown with a cut-out pass to send Jasmin Strange untouched on the left edge before wrapping around on the right to put Shanice Parker over. Parker also turned provider for Sheridan Gallagher, who was unable to land her conversion after taking over the goal-kicking duties from Jesse Southwell, giving the Knights a 12-8 lead at the break.
Gold Coast would begin the second half in near identical fashion to the way they did the first – Brown turning Chapman in behind to level the match, before the star centre's third try put her side back in front 18-12 after 42 minutes.
Chapman's hat-trick – the first in a Grand Final since Kimiora Breayley-Nati's 2018 effort – was matched by her defensive resolve, coming up with a crucial try-saver on Parker moments later to preserve her side's six-point lead.
Jaime Chapman Try
The Knights would continue to attack, however, and eventually levelled the match through their star number one, with Upton jinking her way through the defensive line to cross next to the posts and level the scores with seven minutes remaining.
She would then seal victory for her side with a grubber kick and regather four minutes from time to put the Knights in front by six.
Tamika Upton Try
- Titans coach Karyn Murphy – after whom the player of the match medal is named – became the first female ever to coach a side to a NRLW grand final.
- Newcastle captain Hannah Southwell was placed on report for a hair pull on Gold Coast captain Georgia Hale after 20 minutes. Caitlan Johnston was also placed on report for a raised forearm on Steph Hancock.
- Titans forward Jessika Elliston went on report for a high shot.
- Jaime Chapman scored the first try in each half and her third try all off passes from Lauren Brown. The hat-trick is the third of Chapman's career and the first in an NRLW grand final since Kimiora Breayley-Nati in 2018.
- Titans props Shannon Mato (104m) and Jessika Elliston (110m) both topped the century mark by half-time, along with fullback Evania Pelite (143m).
- Yasmin Clydesdale finished with the best numbers among all forwards with 184 metres from 21 runs to go with a team-high 25 tackles.
- Nita Maynard and Rima Butler were both taken from the field for head injury assessments in the second half along with Destiny Mino-Sinapati.
- Tamika Upton becomes the first player to win four NRLW premierships while teammates Yasmin Clydsdale, Tayla Predebon and Olivia Higgins secured their third consecutive titles.
- Upton also becomes the first player since Jonathan Thurston in 2015 to win the Dally M and Grand Final player of the match in the same game as well as the first player in the premiership era to win back-to-back player of the match awards in the Grand Final.
- 40,649 fans were in attendance for the 2023 NRLW Grand Final.
Match: Knights v Titans
Grand Final -
Venue: Accor Stadium, Sydney
Play of the Game
After scoring two near identical tries on the inside of Lauren Brown passes, Titans centre Jaime Chapman made a personal day to remember with the first Grand Final hat-trick since Kimiora Breayley-Nati in 2018 with her determined effort early in the second half putting the Titans back in front.
Jaime Chapman Try
What They Said
"To play like they did today, this team has a grit about it – they play to the final whistle. We're really disappointed because we believed in ourselves and to not get the result today hurts. But I couldn't be prouder. They improved every week all year and they were right in it until the end." – Titans coach Karyn Murphy
"I think if we look at the Dally M results, she certainly is [the best player on the planet]. I tell you one thing about Tamika: she's extremely humble and she'll talk about her teammates and how good they went. We look at the one-on-one strip on Sheridan; we look at the captain's defence; we look at Caitlan Johnston's second stint and how good that was; Yasmin Clydesdale's effort areas. Tamika's undoubtedly a class player but she knows that the team around her allows her to do a job." – Knights coach Ronnie Griffiths
NRLW Press Conference: Knights v Titans - Grand Final, 2023
Players from both sides will no doubt feature heavily in the upcoming Pacific Championships which will see Australia, New Zealand, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, PNG and the Cook Islands all feature over the course of three weeks.
The Jillaroos and Kiwi Ferns will face off twice, first in Townsville on October 14 before heading south to Melbourne for their second and final game on October 28.
Match: Jillaroos v Kiwi Ferns
Week 1 -
Venue: Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville