Written by Stuart McLennan
When the Australian women’s rugby sevens team won a gold medal at Rio in 2016 we marvelled at their skill and athleticism. Some, such as this writer, pondered on their potential in rugby league.
Ironically it has taken a global pandemic and the subsequent postponement of the Tokyo Olympics and World Sevens rugby to provide the opportunity for two world stars in Charlotte Caslick and Ellia Green to make the leap across to the NRLW.
The reality for ladies at this stage in the development of women’s sport is they have to move between clubs, competition and even codes to maintain their careers at the elite level.
On the plus side, they get to experience a range of formats in front of different audiences.
The rugby league debuts of Caslick and Green this weekend can only be deemed a success.
Instrumental in the Roosters upset win over a star-studded St George-Illawarra side, Caslick topped the stats for running metres (163) with a number of surging runs, despite being on the end of a few “welcome to rugby league” tackles from the opposition.
Fox Sports commentator Mick Ennis described Caslick’s debut as “outstanding” saying “she’s got a beautiful left-hand fend, great balance and speed. She combined beautifully with Corban McGregor and she was one of the stars of the show today.”
Caslick’s rugby sevens skills came to the fore near the end of the game when she backed into the defence and laid the ball back to a teammate keeping the ball alive for a Roosters try in the corner.
Warriors winger Ellia Green announced another ‘Fijian flyer’ in the NRL ranks when the former athletics sprint champion finished off a classy backline move to glide over in the corner after eight minutes.
Green showed she is not all about attack during the game demonstrating some robust defence on her own line despite the champion Brisbane Broncos side running out eventual winners 28-14.
They didn’t get the two points but @nzwarriors #NRLW coach Brad Donald said the team will take positives away from their 28-14 loss to defending champions the @brisbanebroncos. https://t.co/lkAFWA32pR
— Women’s Rugby League (@WRugbyLeague) October 3, 2020
Before and after her first game Caslick, who played in the halves, said the biggest learnings from her rugby league debut were adherence to structure and patience.
As someone who has coached players from sevens rugby to play rugby league I can attest to the time it takes to transform players from the ‘throw the ball around at any cost’ mindset.
Caslick and Green are just two of many NRLW players that have rugby union experience. The list includes Tiana Penitani, Yasmin Meakes, Hannah Southwell. Evania Peliti and a number of others.
Green and Caslick are likely to become even better rugby league players with more game time.
If Round One is anything to go by the NRLW has gone to another level again this season in terms of intensity, skill and physicality.
The international profile Caslick and Green enjoy is a huge opportunity for the NRL to add new viewers and confirm the NRLW’s place as the best women’s rugby competition in the world.