You have skipped the navigation, tab for page content
Fresh crop: Players to watch at the Women's Nat Champs

The next emerging crop of NRLW stars will be on show at this year's Harvey Norman National Championships, with the games kicking off in Burleigh on Thursday.

With 12 teams from across Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific - as well as the two Las Vegas NRL Combine winners - competing in three pools, there is plenty of talent on display from far and wide.

Last year’s tournament was a huge success, helping to unearth the next generation of stars.

The Team of the Tournament saw a number of players go on to make their mark in the NRLW, including Krystal Blackwell (North Queensland Cowboys), Emma Barnes (Canberra Raiders), player of the tournament Alexis Tauaneai (St George Illawarra Dragons), Jacinta Carter (Newcastle Knights) and Rilee Jorgensen, who played in the grand final for the Gold Coast Titans.

Here is just a handful of the names to keep an eye on in this year's tournament.

Ahi Ka Aotearoa - Sharnyze Pihera 

Papakura Sea Eagle Sharnyze Pihema has been described as a robust player with good footwork and was a star of the schools scene in New Zealand. With previous experience playing in the halves, she is listed as lock for the Ahi Ka Aotearoa side who return for their second appearance at the tournament.  

Australian Defence Force Rugby League - Nicole Gusman

An all-round athlete, the Australian Defence Force forward has represented Australia in high jump and also won various state track titles. In rugby league, Gusman has represented father's heritage by serving as captain of the Malta Dames national side and is currently with Queanbeyan Blues after spending the past few seasons with Brisbane Tigers in the BMD Premiership.  

Fiji - Salote Cokanasiga and Tavenisa Lomalomabau 

Those in the know about the incoming Fiji team have said to keep an eye on dynamic duo Salote Cokanasiga and Tavenisa Lomalomabau. Both are wingers, with Lomalomabau also able to play fullback. Cokanasiga is from the Lami Steelers club, while Lomalomabau plays with the Jasper Williams High School team. Adi Waqa and Mere Kilawekana both played for Fiji Bulikula in the Pacific Championships, while prop Alesi Kilawekana was part of the squad. The trio's experience from camp will be vital for the team in their maiden Championships. 

First Nations Gems - Kayla Fleming

Now in her third year with the Gems program, the second rower / lock is looking to make her mark in the tournament this year. The daughter of Jillaroo Nicole Pollard-Fleming, Kayla Fleming (main image) also has experience in green and gold after being selected in the Australian Prime Minister's PM XIII squad last year. A member of the NRL Indigenous Women's Academy, Fleming recently played in the Koori Knockout with the winning Newcastle Yowies team.  

Northern Territory - Latoniya Norris-Addo

No stranger to the Women’s National Championships arena, strike centre Norris-Addo was selected in the Team of the Tournament last year. Since then, she has gone on to represent the PNG Prime Ministers XIII and the PNG Orchids in the Pacific Championships where she scored a try in their win over Cook Islands.

NSW City - Brooke Wilkins

NSW City is brimming with talent and experience, including former Jillaroos Teina Clark and Sonia Mose. One of the younger rising talents looking to grasp her opportunity at the Championships is fullback Brooke Wilkins. Part of the Mounties grand final winning team last season in the Harvey Norman NSW Women's Premiership, Wilkins has a background in athletics and only made the move to league in 2020. 

NSW Country - Alicia Earsman

Listed as a prop for the Country team, the Western Rams product - who also lists state swimming amongst her achievements - has a playing background as a five-eighth, so will no doubt be aiming to create opportunities for her side as a ball playing forward.

Papua New Guinea - Meli Joe

An exciting young player with plenty of promise, Meli Joe got a real taste the big stage with PNG Orchids last year in the Pacific Championships. Playing in from of a large home crowd at Port Moresby, the nippy hooker was elevated from the Junior Orchids to make her senior debut and didn’t look out of place, playing out 27 minutes and making two tackle breaks.

Queensland Sapphires - Georgia Sharam

With her extensive background in rugby sevens, the move to league hasn’t been a huge leap for Georgia Sharam (nee Sim), who will be looking to progress further in her newly-acquired sport. A back-to-back premiership winner with Bond University who has also represented Queensland, Sharam is currently playing with the new team Western Clydesdales in the BMD Premiership. 

South Australia - Emily Symonds

A five-eighth with South Australia's Central District Roosters, the England-born Symonds - who can also play fullback, wing, centre and hooker is a multi-sport athlete and has enjoyed title success while playing rugby union and soccer, captaining her team to a premiership in 2021.

Victoria - Dayna Stevens

Selected from the Truganina Rabbitohs, fullback Dayna Stevens recently topped the try scorers list while playing for the Cook Islands team in the Bula Cup, a celebration of the rugby codes in Victoria. Crossing for seven tries in that tournament, her side will be keen to see her replicate those point-scoring skills at this year's Championships. 

Western Australia - Topaz-Jean Porter

The Joondalup Giants second row / centre is the youngest player in the squad at 18 years old. Appointed captain of the 2023 Western Australia Under 18 Schoolgirls team, Porter is described as a fast, tough and physical player. Porter also competes in weightlifting. 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by NRLW (@nrlw)

Vegas Combine - MarCaya Bailous and Megan Pakulis

Two athletes who will draw attention at this year's tournament will be Las Vegas NRL Combine winners MarCaya Bailous and Megan Pakulis. 

While new faces to many rugby league fans, Bailous (a back), and Pakulis (a forward), are no strangers to the game, with US international Bailous having also played at the Nines tournament in Vegas. Pakulis has even more experience as part of the Canada Ravens team and was named in the Team of the Tournament at the end of the RLWC2021 campaign. 

The duo will be included as additional players to various squads as player 21 and player 22 across the course of the four-day tournament.

The Harvey Norman Women’s National Championships is proudly supported by Experience Gold Coast. 

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.

Platinum Partners

View All Partners