NRLW Grand Final 2023: Tamika Upton stuns rugby league in GF first, Karyn Murphy Medal, Newcastle Knights win, Gold Coast Titans

If there was any doubt that Tamika Upton is the best player in the NRLW, the Knights fullback has well and truly put it to bed.

The 26-year-old was crowned the NRLW’s best player on Wednesday night before scoring two tries to get the Knights over the line for a second straight premiership.

The Knights came home strong on the back of Upton as they secured the 24-18 victory and back-to-back titles.

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Upton has an incredible record, having won four of the six NRLW premierships — twice with the Broncos and now twice with the Knights.

Even more incredibly, she didn’t debut until the 2019 season, the second season of the competition, meaning she’s four from five.

With her side down by six points with 10 minutes to go, Upton did it all herself on the back of a nice offload to level the scores before she grubbered and collected a loose ball to score a try that only comes off for the players willing to gamble with everything on the line.

Upton had a massive match in the decider, running a Knights-high 195m with a line break, two linebreak assists and two try assists as well as her try double.

It was inevitable that she would claim the Karyn Murphy Medal for player of the Grand Final, becoming the first to win it in back-to-back seasons.

“She’s just a genius,” Brad Fittler said, adding she had a hand in each of the Knights’ tries as she scored what proved to be the matchwinner, kicking for herself and winning the race for the ball.

“She’s a freak — what else can I say?” Jesse Southwell said when asked about Upton post-game.

“Pretty cool to play alongside a freakish player like her. She’s a once in a generation player so to play alongside her is insane.”

But while she’s undoubtedly one of the greatest players at the moment, she may have entered the chat for the best women’s player of all-time with another dominant display.

Triple M’s Elliott Lovejoy tweeted: “Tamika Upton is going to go down as the greatest @NRLWomens player of all time. Unbelievable talent.”

CODE Sports’ Lachlan McKirdy added: “Tamika Upton, what a sensational game. Last two tries of the game and secured the grand final for her side. Proved why she’s the best player in the game.”

SEN producer Nathan Brookes commented: “Tamika Upton came home like Makybe Diva and took over that game. What an #NRLW GF. Congrats to the @NRLKnights.”

NRL reporter Alicia Newton posted: “It’s Tamika Upton’s world.”

Sports media legend Deb Spillane said: “Tamika Upton is all class. What an athlete. What a player.”

Journalist Mark Gottlieb wrote: “Vintage Tamika Upton. Best player in the world puts the Knights on her back and carries them to another premiership. Amazing! Another #NRLW title for the superstar.”

For the Titans, it’ll be a bitter pill to swallow.

Having finished with the wooden spoon last season, the Titans made it to the decider and were looking good early.

The Titans should have headed into the sheds with an unassailable lead after they totally dominated the early exchanges but failed to take advantage with Gold Coast only scoring eight points after they took the safe option to slot a penalty for a hair pull.

Newcastle simply couldn’t get over halfway but a penalty swung momentum their way as they raced in three tries in the space of seven minutes to lead 12-8 at the break.

Upton played a key role in two of those tries while Shanice Parker scored one and popped an incredible pass to set up another for Sheridan Gallagher who has made the most of her switch from the round ball game to rugby league.

With Martin Gabor, NCA Newswire

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