NRLW Round 3: Hufunga has arrived, Titans impress

Round 3 of the National Women's Rugby League Premiership is done and dusted and it was a round where a couple of teams really announced themselves.

After a shock loss to the Canberra Raiders, the Sydney Roosters bounced back with a 30-0 thrashing of the St George Illawarra Dragons.

And how about those Canberra Raiders, defeating the former competition leaders the Wests Tigers 28-22.

The Brisbane Broncos got their first win of the season and made a statement against the North Queensland Cowboys, winning 40-12.

Things went from bad to worse for the Parramatta Eels too, with a 38-4 loss to the Newcastle Knights. Of more concern to the Eels will be Kennedy Cherrington, who was sent off early in the second half for a dangerous tackle. Cherrington will go to the judiciary this week and will likely spend 2-3 weeks on the sideline; a proposition the understrength Eels cannot afford.

Here are your Round 3 talking points.

Mele Hufunga has arrived

One of my players to watch for this NRLW season was Broncos centre, Mele Hufunga. Hufanga impressed at the Rugby League World Cup in 2022 for the Kiwi Ferns, where she scored three tries in four games. After a full NRLW pre-season I was excited to see what she could produce.

Hufunga didn't get much ball in the first two rounds, but we saw the results of getting her early ball this week. In the Broncos win against the Cowboys she scored four tries, which equalised the record for the most NRLW tries scored in one match and caused plenty of hassle for the Cowboys defence all afternoon with 15 tackle breaks.

It has taken the new halves pairing of Gayle Broughton and Ali Brigginshaw a couple of weeks to find their rhythm, but with a strong forward pack including Brianna Clark, Romy Teitzel and Chelsea Lenarduzzi and plenty of speed on the edges, the Broncos are going to be tough to stop in 2023.

The Titans win two close contests in a row

The Gold Coast Titans continue to go from strength to strength under coach Karyn Murphy and now, thanks to the Raiders defeat of the Wests Tigers sit on top of the ladder.

Last week for the Titans it was a one-point win over the Broncos in golden point thanks to Lauren Brown. This week it was a try in the 68th minute to Hailee-Jay Ormond Maunsell to help the Titans equalise.

In the end all that separated the Cronulla Sharks and Titans was one conversion and who nailed it for the Titans? You guessed it, Lauren Brown.

The Titans remain undefeated this season and look like a real threat this year.

Jamie Soward tees off at the officials

After the game, Jamie Soward couldn't hide his disappointment at the result, but also at some of the refereeing decisions made during the game. One of his more important comments though concerned the speed of the ruck.

"I don't have $10,000 to spend, but 16 penalties in a game, for me, is way too many, we need to understand... that the ruck is not the same as the men's," said Soward.

"The girls will wrestle differently, they will get into tackles different and get out of tackles slower, 16 penalties and a ruck speed faster than the men who are full time professionals... I want the clarification on what we are trying to get to."

Soward raises an important point and it's why the NRLW motto of 'same game, our way' is different. The women's game cannot be officiated in the same way as the men's game, because the women's game is still developing and the women play different to how the men do.

Another topic of conversation at the moment is the size of the ball. In the AFLW, the women play with a slightly smaller ball, this is yet to happen in the NRLW. I have no doubt that a smaller ball would also impact the level of skill we see very week.

Quick Hits

-- It will be a nervous wait for Broncos fans with Brigginshaw placed on report for a dangerous tackle. Destiny Brill may also be in doubt for next week's game after she was sent for an HIA and did not return.

-- The Roosters will also be nervous with Millie Boyle on report for a hip drop and Jessica Sergis hobbled for most of the game with a hamstring concern.

-- The Roosters 30-point win over the Dragons was the club's biggest margin in its NRLW history.

-- The Knights welcomed back Hannah Southwell after a long stint on the sidelines with an ACL injury. English star Georgia Roche also played her first game in the NRLW.

-- Leianne Tufuga scored a hattrick in the Raiders win over the Tigers.

Onto the Next

Next week is Round 4 and we find ourselves almost halfway through the competition.

The Eels will be hoping that both Rachael Pearson and Elsie Albert are available for their next game against the Broncos, which is must-win if the Eels have any intention of playing finals footy.

The Cowboys also face a big test when they play the Wests Tigers.

Match of the round is on Sunday, when the reigning premiers the Knights take on the Titans who remain undefeated in season 2023.