Super Rugby Women’s 2024 kickoff: Mass player turnover means there’s no time to waste for teams to get it right


Maybe the only person more excited with the start of the Super Rugby Women’s tournament than the players and coaches will be new Wallaroos coach Jo Yapp. No doubt she has seen a few of the trials but now it is proper game time.

A new season. A new name. A new hashtag.

The Super W tournament is no longer called Super W, it’s now Super Rugby Women. With it comes a new hash tag #SuperRugbyW. Why the change? Who knows? Not a big deal in the scheme of things.

A reminder too – the Super Rugby Women tournament is a sprint. Blink and you may miss it, so get on board early. It starts with the Force and Rebels tonight then five rounds, semi finals and the Grand Final on the 27th April. All done in dusted in seven weeks.

With such a short season, even with pre-season games, cohesion and building combinations is a major challenge as most squads have had significant roster turnover compared to last year. This is an extra challenge in the forwards where set piece technique and experience are key. In 2023 teams such as the Brumbies and Western Force in particular really showed significant signs of development and real improvement in the last couple of matches… Then the tournament was over.

Not surprisingly the Waratahs will be looking for a big season after missing the grand final last season. Obviously the reigning champions Fijian Drua will be highly competitive, they always are. The Reds have been in many grand finals and have yet to crack a grand final win, so will be wanting to rectify that this season.

Aww yeah ????

Super Rugby Women’s is BACK for 2024 ????

It all kicks off Friday ????️

— RUGBYcomau (@rugbycomau) March 14, 2024

For the Western Force, ACT Brumbies and Melbourne Rebels it will be interesting to see where they are in their development.

NSW Waratahs

To no real surprise the Waratahs are looking pretty good. Unlike the other teams, most players have returned from last season. In the squad of 32, 20 are returning plus the 3 overseas players who were unavailable for Super W last year; Kaitlan Leaney, Arabella McKenzie and Emily Chancellor. It is a quality squad.

Most importantly, the core of the tight five have returned. In reality, the Tahs have an over abundance of quality lock options with Leaney, Sera Naiqama, Atasi Lafai and former Red Annabelle Codey.

Some of the players who have not returned have headed to other clubs. Forwards Katalina Amosa and Laretta Laiangi have joined the Brumbies, Rosie Ebbage off to the Force and Grace Hamilton to the Rebels. Three more players have also gone to the NRLW, Bronte Wilson (Dragons), Ella Ryan (Raiders) and Margot Vella (Dragons).

Jo Yapp says she wants to lead the Wallaroos into the top four. Photo: Rugby Australia

No doubt captain Piper Duck is looking for a big season after her 2023 was an injury marred nightmare. Just like last season there are a couple of young teenagers in the squad in Waiaria Ellis and Charlie Norton. It will be interesting to see how fullback Caitlyn Halse goes in her second season at the ripe old age of 17.

Melbourne Rebels

Despite having Ash Marsters and bringing in rugby stalwart Grace Hamilton into the squad it will probably be a tough season for the Rebels. Back on deck is one of the hearts and souls of the Rebels and captain Mel Kawa, who returns after having a child just seven months ago. She is an absolute little warrior for the Rebels. They have the smallest squad with just 28 players and only nine backing up from last season.

Western Force

The Force like last season have done a bit of recruiting but appear have struggled with retention. Only 11 players from last season have returned to the squad of 31 and there’s a range of new recruits; Rosie Ebbage, a lock from the Tahs, who is a good pick up. They have also a couple from Queensland including fly half/ full back Renae Nona. Canadian hooker Sarah Cline should bring some experience and the Force picked up a couple of Kiwis, Harono Te Iringa and Sheree Hume, Hinata Komaki from Japan and Samoan Alanis Toia.

The Force have some inspirational leadership with captain Trilleen Pomare in the backs and Michaela Leonard in the forwards. If they can get their combinations going quickly they should be pretty competitive.

Trilleen Pomare of the Force passes the ball during the Super W match between Western Force and ACT Brumbies Women at HBF Park, on April 22, 2023, in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Fijian Drua

For the Fijian Drua one of the biggest changes is that former captain skipper Bitila Tawake has joined the Chiefs Manawa squad for the 2024 Super Rugby Aupiki competition. Tawake was the captain for the last two successful seasons.

They have 15 players of their squad of 32 returning, with Merewalesi Rokovono back after playing in the NRLW with the Cowboys last season. Even with a lot of changes to their roster, they are always dangerous and highly competitive.

ACT Brumbies

The Brumbies also have a fair amount of turnover, with 16 players returning in their squad of 32. But they have a quality core of players such as captain Siokapesi Palau, who was a real find for the Wallaroos last season as a centre turned outstanding blind side flanker. Other quality players include Tania Naden, Jay Huriwai, Jemima McCalman and Ashlea Bishop. A couple of players to keep an eye on are backrower Tabua Tuinakauvadra and fly half Faitala Moleka.

Unfortunately they will be without Grace Kemp, who has crossed over to the NRLW, and Black Fern star prop Amy Rule.

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Melanie Kawa of the Rebels, Siokapesi Palu of the Brumbies, Piper Duck of the Waratahs, Asinate Serevi of Fiji Drua, Trilleen Pomary of the Force and Cecilia Smith of the Reds pose during the 2024 Super Rugby Women’s Season Launch at Ballymore Stadium on March 06, 2024 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images for Rugby Australia)

Queensland Reds

The Reds have gone through some changes, captain Shannon Parry retired and they have a new coach in Grant Anderson. They made last year’s grand final and played some very good rugby so will be keen to go one better this year. However only 13 players from last season are in the squad of 32. They are missing some quality players such as Kiwi half Diane Hiini, who paired very well with Carys Dallinger. Annabelle Codey has joined the Tahs and unfortunately Bree Cheatham injured her ACL in the last game of the Wallaroos’ season against Wales. Speedster Heleina Young has left to join the Fijian rugby sevens program.

At the same time though they have experience, especially in the back line with captain Cecilia Smith, Dallinger, Ivania Wong and Lori Cramer who returns after a stint at the Tahs. Special mention too of the return of prop and Reds inspiration Liz Patu. It is good to see Briana Danscombe back, she looked very good last season until she got injured. Adding some experience and international flavour is USA Test prop Charli Jacoby.

The Queensland Reds are always competitive, and this season should not be any different.

The key for all teams will be cohesion and getting those combinations clicking as soon as possible.

Round 1

Fri, Mar 15, 2024, 7:30 PM HBF Park
Western Force Women vs Melbourne Rebels Women

Sat, Mar 16, 2024, 5:05 PM Allianz Stadium
NSW Waratahs Women vs ACT Brumbies Women

Sun, Mar 17, 2024, 2:35 PM Ballymore Stadium
Queensland Reds Women vs Fijian Drua Women

Super Rugby Women’s games are broadcast on Stan, with the Saturday game also on 9Gem.

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