NRLW 2023: Honesty session saved Newcastle’s NRLW season

A mid-season honesty session has been revealed as the catalyst behind Newcastle’s eight-game winning streak as the defending NRLW premiers look to clinch their second title in as many years on Sunday afternoon.

Newcastle will head into the grand final as the raging hot favourites against a Titans side that finished with the wooden spoon last year but has turned it around on the back of their defence.

The Knights head into the decider on the back of an eight-game winning streak, but there were concerns inside the camp that players weren’t buying in after they were stunned by the Cowboys in the most shocking upset of the season.

North Queensland’s maiden season in the NRLW has been a struggle but they did beat the Knights 31-20 in Round 2 on the back of a Kirra Dibb masterclass in what turned out to be one of just two victories for the expansion side.

That loss could have derailed Newcastle’s campaign, but a player-led honesty session sparked a stunning turnaround THAT has them in their second grand final in a row after they finished last in their first season.

“We had a big honesty session halfway through the season,” skipper Hannah Southwell revealed at the NRLW Fan Fest in Circular Quay.

“We weren’t really playing like we wanted so we kind of sat everyone down and asked if everyone was buying into what we’re doing here. All the girls said ‘yes’ so I think from that day forward we’ve carried that with us.

“We just believe in each other and we love playing footy. We’re not looking for representative accolades after this or anything like that – we just love footy and playing for Newcastle.

“I think you can definitely see that when we play.”

The Knights haven’t lost a game since that day in Belmore, and coach Ronald Griffiths says the players deserve a lot of the credit for identifying the problems and fixing them so quickly.

“We spoke after the Cowboys game and we didn’t think we got it right,” he said.

“We probably didn’t turn up with the right intent, even from a coach’s perspective. We didn’t go through the normal protocols that we would if we were playing an away game, so we didn’t think we got that right.

“The players also thought they didn’t quite turn up with the right frame of mind because we knew it was going to be hard, but we didn’t train like that or play like that the week prior.

“I reckon the ownership for a lot of that fell on the coaches because we didn’t get our preparation right.

“When I first started coaching with the club, one thing we spoke to the playing group about was that we’d help them put some parameters in place, but they needed to drive everything that we’re about.

“I think that’s why they’re so invested in the process that we do.”

A second premiership would be even more remarkable given they lost representative prop forward Millie Boyle to the Roosters, but Newcastle’s middle rotation has excelled this season with Caitlan Johnston and Tayla Predebon taking control.

“There was a lot of talk about the players that left, but we were really confident in the players that we retained,” Griffiths said.

“We retained who we wanted to.

“Caitlan has played at the highest level, Tayla has been a Country representative and probably been unlucky not to play Origin, and then you’ve got someone like Kayla Romaniuk who comes off the bench, plays the same position and is equally adept as the two that we’ve just named.

“We may have lost some players, but we’re extremely confident and have total belief in the players that we re-signed.”

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