NRLW Round 8: Awful news brings perspective to game

This week the rugby league community was reminded that there are some things more important than footy, with the community rallying around two of the Brisbane Broncos NRLW players who are going through a very challenging time.

Toni Hunt only just returned to the NRL last month after cancer treatment. Unfortunately Hunt has just received news that the cancer has returned, with chemotherapy required immediately. Hunt has three children all under the age of 16.

Lavinia Gould's daughter Kaia is currently in a serious condition in hospital after having open heart surgery last month. Gould has been with the Broncos since 2018, is one of the oldest players in the NRLW and has taken indefinite leave so she can support her daughter.

A GoFundMe has been set up for Hunt and for Gould with many in the rugby league family getting behind these two women.

But some rugby league was also played this weekend and following the results, there are now five teams left who can feature in the finals with the Cronulla Sharks ending the St George Illawarra Dragons hopes with a win at Shark Park on Thursday night.

The most anticipated game of the year so far saw the Newcastle Knights beat the Sydney Roosters, 20 - 4 with the Canberra Raiders getting a big win over the North Queensland Cowboys and the Gold Coast Titans defeating the Parramatta Eels, both games ending 34-12.

Here are your talking points.

Newcastle dominate Roosters

The two competition heavyweights played each other, with the Minor Premiership on the line and it was the Knights who got the win in front of their home crowd.

The Knights now sit two points clear on the NRLW ladder after scoring 16 unanswered points in the second half after the scores were locked up at the break.

The Roosters were without Jessica Sergis due to a fractured finger, Isabelle Kelly left the field with a head knock and Millie Boyle withdrew pre-game due to a shoulder injury, which no doubt helped the Knights dominate this fixture.

Tamika Upton was a stand-out for the Knights with a line break, 267 run metres and two tries in the 24th and 40th minutes.

With just one round to go these are the two stand-out teams, but there is still plenty of room for improvement, with neither side completing at above 70 percent in this game.

I have a feeling these two teams might meet again in the Grand Final and the Roosters will no doubt be looking for revenge.

Peter V'Landys suggests NRLW expansion may take place next year

This week, it was announced that the NRL has started asking clubs for expressions of interest to join the NRLW with potential expansion next year. The NRL has asked clubs to nominate the year that they may be ready to field a team with clubs like the South Sydney Rabbitohs indicating they may be ready for 2025.

I must admit, I was concerned when the NRL announced its plans to expand to 10 teams this year. Overall, due to the influx of rugby union players, the standard of the competition has exceeded my expectations. I think the challenge arises when teams lose marquee and key players and the depth is not yet there to replace them.

We've seen how much the Eels struggled without Rachael Pearson and Elsie Albert, the same could be said about Wests Tigers when they were without Kezie Apps and Botille Vette-Welsh and for the Sharks, the injury to Jada Taylor also had an impact.

My view would be to give the competition as it is some time to settle before introducing new teams. With players now signing long-term contracts for the first time, clubs have the opportunity for some stability in their roster and I would be concerned about the depth of the talent pool if expansion happened again too soon.

I think it is also important to be working toward paying the current group of women appropriately, rather than expanding the number of teams and players and being required to pay these women more because the length of the season will naturally grow.

Quick Hits

-- The Cowboys were their own worst enemies in heir loss to the Raiders, only completing at 56 percent.

-- Jamie Chapman scored a hat trick in the Titans win against the Eels, crossing the line in the 34th, 36th and 59th minutes.

-- Shakiah Tungai worked hard for the Raiders, making 204 run metres.

-- Jae Patu made her NRLW debut for the Tigers on the weekend; she is the captain of the Wests Tigers Tarsha Gale team.

Onto the Next

There's one round left in the regular season and the results will determine the order of the top four. No doubt there are several teams looking to spoil the top four party.

The Tigers will look to finish their season on a high when they play the top ranked Knights at Campbelltown Sports Stadium.

There will likely be some fire in the game between the Sharks and the Eels, with the Sharks poaching several players that have played for Parramatta in the past including Maddie Studdon, Tiana Penitani and Ellie Johnston.

If the Raiders are any chance of making the finals, they must beat the Titans on Sunday in front of what I hope will be a large home crowd at GIO Stadium.