It was fast, furious, exciting and close to the perfect grand final spectacle to cap the best Super W season yet, with Fijiana Drua's inclusion in the competition a resounding success after a captivating 32-26 win over the Waratahs.
Entering the season as the league's unknowns, Drua were quick to make an impression, smashing the Force in the opening round, backing it up with a big win over Super W perennial bridesmaids the Queensland Reds, before ending the Waratahs' 20-game win streak in impressive fashion in round 4.
Bringing an offload game with plenty of flair and exuberance, the Fijiana game style introduced a new dimension to the competition -- forcing Australia's best players to expand their own game and elevate their skillset to attempt to match and shut down Drua's weapons.
But their grand final win showed Fijiana refused to be one-dimensional. Withstanding the endless pressure from the Waratahs, Drua unleashed their rampaging forwards as they kept the ball in tight and attempted to bash their way through the defensive line through what seemed like endless pick and drives, before their much vaunted backline exposed even the slightest defensive gaps.
Their tries were impressive, but so to was their defence, which at several stages was forced to maintain its integrity whilst a player down. Their efforts in the first half to withstand the Tahs' pressure on their tryline after hooker Vika Matarugu was shown yellow was emblematic of the strength in the team.
While it was devastation for the four-time champion Waratahs, and no other Australian side came close to downing the newcomers, Drua's inclusion added another dimension to a competition that was beginning to stagnate and was given the seal of approval from Waratahs coach Campbell Aiken who wants the rest of the league to catch up to the Tahs' and Drua's standards.
"I think the competition needed it, full stop," Aiken said of Drua's inclusion. "My view is it got a bit boring and it needed it. It's not great that one team dominates quite comfortable for so long for any competition. The new entrance does make it more exciting for fans and that's what we want to grow the game and that's the main thing.
"Beating Queensland 82-nil over two games in the last couple of weeks is a sign that the competition isn't strong as it should be in Australia. Fijiana have come in and set a benchmark that we have to work harder and ultimately that's what we want and it makes our girls better, makes Australian women's rugby better, but the rest of the competition needs to take that and improve themselves to make it a better competition."
So where does Super W go from here? Fijiana's inclusion has exposed how much Australian rugby needs to improve. The Waratahs, who bounced back from a 29-10 defeat in round 4 to push the new champions throughout the grand final, shows that the players have the ability to learn and develop quickly. To do that though, the competition needs more investment, with Drua demonstrating how a full-time program can take a team to another level.
"Fijiana have been here for three or four months now, full-time, and you can see the difference that it makes and I would certainly like to see that investment in our girls who worked very hard and you can see they put their heart and soul out there and run a full-time team pretty close," Aiken said.
"To be honest we're disappointed, we should have a full-time program and that's where the competition needs to get better and investment needs to be made in it."
With the expanded competition adding another level of depth to Australia's playing ranks, Aiken believes taking Super W trans-Tasman is the next logical step ahead of what's been touted as the golden decade of Australian women's rugby with the women's Rugby World Cup all but confirmed to be hosted in Australia in 2029.
"Yeah, without doubt [we need to go trans-Tasman]," Aiken said. "We'd organized two games against the Chiefs and the Blues for preseason this year to go over there and play against them, but COVID put paid to that, but again, it was us seeking improvement and I think ourselves and Fijiana certainly could quite comfortably fit in that tournament.
"It'd be great to see that investment, and that step forward for our goals to actually play Trans-Tasman, 'cause that's how you get tested and that's how you get better and if we want this sport to improve in this country, we've got to invest in it, and we've got to allow the girls the opportunity to train more and actually achieve what they can achieve."