Premiership winner and Newcastle Knights NRLW young gun Jesse Southwell is poised to make her Women’s State of Origin debut for NSW next month.
The 18-year-old five eighth is among six debutants on the 20-player squad named by Sky Blues Coach Kylie Hilder today for the two-match series which kicks off in Sydney on June 1.
Jesse’s sister, and NSW veteran, Hannah Southwell is still returning to full strength after suffering a season ending ACL tear in the Knights opening match in 2022 and was unavailable for Game One selection.
Last month Hannah told reporters in Newcastle she would be focused on cheering on her younger sister if Jesse earned selection.
Knights Prop Caitlan Johnston is also carrying a knee injury and is unable to back up in the series opener at Commbank Stadium after helping NSW to to victory last year.
But experienced Knights forward Yasmin Clydsdale has been retained in the Sky Blues side set to defend its Origin supremacy.
Clydsdale and Southwell will reunite with ex-Newcastle clubmate and Jillaroo Millie Boyle when the squad heads to camp next Thursday where the player list will be narrowed to 17.
Hilder and her two assistant coaches, Ruan Sims and Kate Mullaly, have retained a total of 13 players from last year’s victorious side.
“This is a very strong squad filled with plenty of Origin experience and also a number of Jillaroos (11) from the World Cup-winning Australia team last November,” Hilder said.
“I’ve said from the very beginning that 2023 is a clean slate. What we achieved in 2022 – however good that was – is now in the past.”
“We are going out there to win not just one game but both Origin games. We won’t settle for anything less than a 2-0 series result.”
Earlier this week, Knights fullback Tamika Upton was named to the Queensland squad by Coach Tahnee Norris.
This is the first time in history the Women’s State of Origin will be a multi-game series, with a second game slated for Townsville’s Country Bank Stadium on June 22.