Australian fast bowler Dennis Lillee stood in front of a crowd of reporters after the very first World Series Cricket match back in 1978. The iconic Lillee, famous moustache hanging over his top lip was asked about the 45,000 fans that had jammed into the Sydney Cricket Ground to see this new version of the game.
“When Mr. Packer started WSC, the Australian Cricket Board said, ‘We’ll let the people be the judges’. It looks like they have”.
Okay so there wasn’t 45,000 fans at North Sydney Oval last Friday night but the Women’s New South Wales versus Queensland match – played under the State of Origin banner for the first time – definitely had a WSC feel about it. From the moment the Blues and Maroons stepped onto the field, a tension filled the air. It was the unknown. Would the average rugby league fan warm to this version of the game? Would the players deliver?
NRL officials knew they had a great product. They only needed the players to put on a show.
A respectful applause from most after the national anthem. Family and friends made the most noise. However as the match went on, the buzz grew. By the end of the game, a ‘NSW, NSW, NSW’ chant echoed through the old venue. Under lights, in front of a packed North Sydney Oval, the players delivered.
The unknown was unknown no more.
By the break, fans watching for the first time had sorted out who were stars and who were superstars.
Isabelle Kelly cut across the grass as smoothly as Matt Cooper once did and like Cooper – Kelly can defend. She looked as technically sound as any male playing the game.
Fullback Sam Bremner had her moments but everything she did was so quick. She made one error because she would rather try catch the ball on the full, at a middle miles an hour, then let it bounce again. With limited space, it was obvious she had more speed to burn than any other player on the field.
Queensland’s Ali Brigginshaw almost won the Maroons the game. She was in everything. A tactical brain to go with a fearless appetite to get dirty defensively.
Kezie Apps had a mixed night but there’s no doubting her star power. Every one of her mannerisms screams rugby league player.
Blues prop Simiana Taufa-Kautai got through a mountain of work.
The other one that really impressed your writer was NSW’s replacement hooker Nita Maynard.
What an impact!
To top it all off, 700,000 viewers tuned in across Channel Nine and Fox Sports.
Nietzsche once said: “One cannot fly into flying”.
You must learn to walk first.
The best part is, we’re already up and running.