NRLW Round 9 review: And then there were four

Talei Holmes of the Sharks Mark Nolan/Getty Images

With the regular rounds of the National Women's Rugby League Premiership complete, we now move into the finals where the Newcastle Knights, Sydney Roosters, Gold Coast Titans and Brisbane Broncos battle it out for the title.

Each of these four teams booked their place in the semi-finals with a big wins over their opposition on the weekend.

The Knights beat the Wests Tigers 28-8.

The Roosters beat the North Queensland Cowboys 40-16. Incredibly the Roosters were able to score 40 points even without Keeley Davis and Millie Boyle who both missed the game through injury.

The Broncos beat the St George Illawarra Dragons 46-12 and the Titans beat the Canberra Raiders 30-6.

The results on the weekend, including the Cronulla Sharks 56-6 point win over the Parramatta Eels (the first team to score 50 in the NRLW) suggests to me that it's time to put the pause on expansion for at least another year. Whilst the talent pool continues to grow, its clear that depth remains a challenge for teams, particularly when key players get injured. This week, the Roosters were so challenged for depth that they signed their strength and conditioning coach, Millicent Scutt to a contract.

Blowout scores have become more frequent and larger as the season progressed. Prior to this weekend the Roosters had the record, with a 48-10 win over the Tigers. The Sharks win over the Eels easily surpassed that. Lopsided scorelines like this are challenging for the teams on the receiving end and make it harder to garner interest from casual fans.

On the weekend, the Canterbury Bulldogs officially presented their NRLW licence application to the NRL, but I sincerely hope that the soonest we see new teams entering this competition is in 2025.

I do not think the competition has the depth to sustain any more teams before that.

Here are your Round 9 talking points.

Newcastle Knights win the club's first Minor Premiership

The reigning Premiers have had an exceptional season this year, finishing on top of the ladder with eight wins and just one loss. This secured the club's first Minor Premiership in either the men's or women's competitions.

Even after losing Millie Boyle to the Roosters at the start of the season, the Knights haven't missed a beat with halfback Jesse Southwell continuing to grow as a player throughout the season.

But the Knights win over the Tigers did not come without a cost. Southwell had a knock to the leg in the opening 15 minutes and was struggling to run. At this stage, Knights staff are saying it is just a cork, but will no doubt take extra precaution with Southwell this week.

Despite a disappointing run, there were still plenty of positives for the Tigers to take out of their inaugural season. Injuries to players like Kezie Apps, Sarah Togatuki and Botille Vette-Welsh had a big impact throughout the season, but a number of new players announced themselves including Losana Lutu and Jakiya Whitfeld.

Broncs power their way to a top four finish

The Broncos had a slow start to the season, losing their first two games, but out of all the teams this year I feel like they have improved the most as the season has progressed.

With players like Gayle Broughton, Julia Robinson and Ali Brigginshaw, the Broncos have a high ceiling and absolutely dominated the Dragons, who until last weekend were chasing a spot in the finals too.

Particularly impressive in this game was Julia Robinson who scored a hattrick, ran for 230 metres and had seven tackle breaks.

Shenae Ciesiolka and Mele Hufanga also scored two tries each.

Quick Hits

-- Whitfeld finished her season in style with 11 tackle busts in the first half against the Knights. By the end of the game she had 207 running metres.

-- Tarryn Aitken has truly been a star for the Tricolours this year and in this game she scored two tries, had two try assists and four line break assists.

-- Teagan Berry ended the regular season as top try scorer with 11 tries this year.

-- Of the Sharks 56 points, Tayla Preston scored 20 of them through a try and eight conversions.

-- The Eels were their own worst enemy on the day, completing at just 44 percent.

-- In each of their wins this year, the Roosters have scored more than 30 points.

-- After being the difference in so many close games this season, Lauren Brown scored her first try of the year against the Raiders.

-- Georgia Hale finished the regular season as top tackler, with 402 tackles made.

Onto the Next

We now move onto the semi-finals.

The Knights will play the Broncos on Sunday at McDonald Jones Stadium followed by the Roosters playing the Titans at Allianz Stadium.