The Cronulla Sharks Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership (HNWP) Team are set to further strengthen their squad in 2022, bringing on board NSW Women’s Under 19’s Origin Hooker Rueben Cherrington, which may leave many seeing double.
Eighteen-year-old Rueben will join her sister, Kennedy Cherrington, in the black, white and blue, following her move across the country from Perth to Sydney. The opportunity to share the field together has been a long time coming for the sister duo, something that they describe as a dream come true.
“I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. Ever since she has started playing Rugby League I just couldn’t wait to play with her,” Kennedy said.
“It’s going to be a special moment for my whole family. I can’t wait until next year because I know the combination between us is going to be there...she’s a 9, I’m a 10.”
Having looked up to Kennedy since a young age, the chance to finally take the field with her sister is one that Rueben also considers to be a “special moment”.
“My sister is my role model. She is someone who I aspire to be. She’s always setting the standards high in my family and always raising the bar to a new level when it comes to footy and achievements,” Rueben said.
“Just being able to work with each other and run off each other would be pretty cool because we know how each other plays.”
The sister-combo is an exciting new addition to the already strong Shark’s side, as where the Cherrington’s go, success often seems to follow.
However, while their list of achievements are many, they have not come without sacrifice.
With an almost identical sporting background, the sister’s began playing Rugby League at a young age, however due to the Under 12-year cutoff for girls participating in boy’s competitions, they were both forced to make the switch to Rugby Union codes.
“I jumped on the 7’s bandwagon through High School and was lucky to end up in the Youth Aussie 7s pathway where I went to the Bahamas for the 2017 Youth Commonwealth Games and won gold there,” Kennedy said.
Living on the other side of the country, distance made Kennedy’s success in Sydney-based teams challenging.
At just 18 she made the tough decision to move away from her family to whole-heartedly pursue her dream. The sacrifice paid off, with her selection in the Premiership winning NSW Waratahs Rugby Team and her ongoing involvement in the Australian 7s program.
Mirroring her big sister’s every move, Rueben has achieved success in her own right, also winning gold for Australia in the 2019 World School’s 7’s tournament.
However, come 2020, both girls were in need of a change of environment and Kennedy, looking for a challenge, made the move back to Rugby League.
“I felt like I needed to get out of my comfort zone and pursue something different,” Kennedy said. “That’s when Tiana Penitani reached out to me and asked if I was keen on joining the Sharks for the Harvey Norman 2020 season.”
Within just four months of making the switch, Kennedy had made a name for herself in the Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership competition, with standout performances for the Cronulla Sharks.
She made her NRLW debut for the Sydney Roosters, was selected in the Women’s NSW State of Origin Squad and was awarded 2020 NRLW Rookie of the Year.
While Kennedy was making her way in the world of Rugby League, 2020 saw Rueben dabbling in AFL, before following her sister back to the game where they both started.
Completing Year 12 in Western Australia, Rueben represented the St George Dragons in the Sydney-based Tarsha Gale Cup, flying across the country week in and week out to play.
“My parents wanted to give me the best opportunity I could get, so I wasn't missing out on anything purely because I lived in WA,” Rueben said.
Rueben and her family were rewarded for their commitment, expense and dedication after she played a starring role in her team’s Tarsha Gale Grand Final win.
This led to selection in the Under 19’s Women’s NSW team, which took home the shield after a 16-12 victory over Queensland at Sunshine Coast Stadium in June this year.
Kennedy, who missed out on final selection in the Sky Blue’s team last year, also took to the field in a NSW jersey for the first time in the following game that night, making their individual State of Origin debuts all the sweeter.
“It was a cool experience just debuting for NSW in general and then knowing that Kennedy would debut in the game after,” Rueben said.
“It felt like my hard work had paid off,” Kennedy added. “I made the 2020 squad and was in awe of the girls around me. I obviously didn’t debut but everything happens for a reason. Timing is everything.
“2021 was a rewarding year being beside my sister and because of that we are both going on to bigger things next season, so hopefully we can both play together soon in the Blue’s jersey.”
Now with Rueben having completed her final year of school, the Cherrington family will relocate back to Sydney in order to facilitate the long-term dream, one that will be lived out in the Shark’s Jersey in 2022.
Still eligible to play in the U19’s Tarsha Gale Cup, Rueben’s step up into an open age competition may seem daunting to the youngster, but Kennedy has no doubt in her sister’s ability.
“We made a tough decision. She wants to challenge herself in a full season of Harvey Norman,” Kennedy explained.
“She’s always been the player that is chucked in the deep end and she’s always just played through natural talent. I can't wait to see what the coaching staff can bring to her game, because I know she’s only going to go to another three or four levels.”
Rueben's style of game is expected to complement that of NSW representative and current Sharks hooker, Quincy Dodd, adding further depth to an already formidable spine.
“Her and Quincy Dodd I think will be a great link-up, being the two Origin hookers for their respective teams. I think she brings a different style of game to Quincy. She’s a lot bigger, also a kicking option,” Kennedy said.
The opportunity to develop her game surrounded by some of the NRLW’s star players, including the likes of Corban Baxter, Tiana Penitani, Maddie Studdon and Sharks newcomers Shontelle Stowers, Sam Bremner and Holli Wheeler, has Rueben excited for the season ahead.
“Just being in an environment where I’m surrounded by girls that play footy all the time and just having the same dreams and the same future,” she said.
“I’m pretty excited to be on board with the Sharks.”
Lead pic - The Sharks Cherrington sisters, Kennedy (left) and Reuben