Players with Origin and International experience and a youngster to have represented her state at an under-19’s level, are set to complement the returning stars, with the Sharks to field a formidable line-up in the Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership in 2022.
While familiar faces Corban McGregor, Tiana Penitani, Maddie Studdon, Kennedy Cherrington, and Quincy Dodd are amongst those to earmarked to return, when you add the likes of representative talents Hollie Wheeler and Shontelle Stowers, the brilliant Sam Bremner and exciting newcomer Rueben Cherrington, and the Sharks will certainly be amongst the teams to beat in the premier NSWRL competition next season
It’s a playing group worthy of competing in the NRLW competition, but the Sharks will look to challenge for next year’s Harvey Norman title first and see what comes after that.
“Our goal is to be a part of the NRLW if not in 2022 then definitely in 2023 and while a number of our girls will play in that competition early next year, to be able to pull together such a strong squad for our Harvey Norman Women’s team is certainly very exciting,” said Glenn Brailey, the Sharks Development & Pathways Manager, who along with HNWP coach Tony Herman has been responsible for assembling the Cronulla team.
For Sharks fans familiar with the Women’s team, NSW reps McGregor, Penitani, Studdon, Cherrington and Quincy Dodd will need little introduction, with the Cronulla side finishing third in 2021 before the Finals series was cancelled due to the Covid restrictions.
Similarly, Stowers and Bremner have also previously played in Sharks colours, with the pair members of a 2017 squad which participated in a series of exhibition 9’s matches.
Stowers, with a representative rugby union background before switching to rugby league at the Sharks, has played for NSW in the Origin arena, while also spending two years at the Roosters and one with the New Zealand Warriors in the NRLW.
“I’m on my way back, I feel like I’m coming home. It’s pretty incredible and I’m really excited to go back to where it all started for me,” Stowers said.
As for Bremner, one of the brightest stars of the women’s game, with seven matches for NSW and six Test caps for Australia to her name, the birth of her second child in late October will temporarily put a halt to pre-season training and keep her out of the NRLW competition scheduled for early in 2022, but come the start of next year she has no doubt she’ll be ready to go.
“My first game back (after the baby), will be in a Sharks jersey and I’m really excited about that,” Bremner said. “After speaking to Tony (Herman), to a few of the girls and to Brails (Glenn Brailey), I thought coming back to play for the Sharks was a great opportunity.”
Wheeler, who follows her partner Stowers to the Sharks, wasn’t too worried about Bremner’s ability to be prepared to play come the start of the Harvey Norman season.
“Sam is a freak. She’s so fit and so professional, she’s probably going to still lead the way on all the fitness drills,” Wheeler said.
And as important as Bremner will be to the Cronulla side, so too Wheeler, a no nonsense forward with three NSW Origin matches and two games for the Jillaroos on her resume.
Wheeler and Stowers will both turn out for the Dragons in the 2022 NRLW but they found themselves without a Harvey Norman Women’s club for next year, with the pair needing little convincing when it came to joining the Sharks.
“Our hand was forced and we needed to find another club and I’m stoked this opportunity has come up at Cronulla,” Wheeler said. “The opportunity to link up with a lot of the players we get to play rep games with, whether it be NRLW, State of Origin or for Australia, on a week-to-week basis, is pretty exciting.”
“It’s a brilliant side, I’m really excited to play alongside some players I started my footy journey with, like Corban, Maddie, Talei (Holmes) was only young, Quincy Dodd, and I played rugby 7’s with Tiana when she was about 17,” Stowers added.
However as strong as the Sharks side appears on paper, complications involved with the Harvey Norman competition points system, one that restricts a club from fielding too many representative quality players on a weekly basis, will present some challenges for Herman and his coaching staff.
At various stages of the season some players will be required to sit out, although Wheeler was confident the Sharks had the depth to handle whatever might need to take place
“With the format of next season it’s going to be a full-on year, so there’s going to be periods where players will be rested and there will be different combinations,” Wheeler explained.
“So the depth the Sharks have is amazing and we all understand it will be a shared process through the season. But it is a wonderful opportunity to link up with these girls and it was something I couldn’t go past,” Wheeler said.
The start date for the Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership has yet to be confirmed, with round one tentatively scheduled for the week of the NRLW Grand Final.
The Sharks will have a number of players involved in the NRLW, however the remainder of the squad will begin pre-season training in early November.
Lead photo - from left - Shontelle Stowers, Sam Bremner, Hollie Wheeler