Olivia living the dream by locking into new position for Origin homecoming at packed Newcastle stadium


Just like the rest of us, the NSW Blues women will gather together to watch their male counterparts in their first State of Origin game for 2024. For Sky Blues forward Olivia Kernick, it’s the perfect way to finish their preparation for their Game II on Thursday night in front of a sold-out Newcastle crowd.

“It’s super exciting and we love that the men play the night before,” said Kernick.

“We put the game on a massive projected screen, we watch together and we just scream our heads off.

“I have to say that Jess Sergis is probably the most passionate, she gets us all fired up.”

Blues fans will be hoping that their women take that passion into Game II and treat the fans to a performance just like the series opener when they beat Queensland 22-12 after scoring twice in the first 10 minutes to establish an early lead which Queensland couldn’t reel in.

Leading into Game I much was made of the varied preparations. Due to different scheduling of the state-based competitions, Queensland relied on the preparation players would get through playing regular, consistent footy whilst for NSW, coach Kylie Hilder focused the preparation on a six-week training camp.

That camp may have been decisive with NSW looking fitter from the outset and more connected as a team. Whilst playing consistent footy may have been beneficial for some of the Queensland players, the quality of the BMD Premiership (whilst good) is not comparable to the State of Origin or even the NRLW.

Kernick wonders whether the results from Game I might push Queensland toward a different approach next year.

“I was one of the players who decided to fly in and fly out to play in the Queensland comp,” said Kernick.

“I missed some of our camp to do that, but when I reconnected with the group I saw how hard they were training and I knew the squad had never been fitter. I knew we would be sweet.

“We are fitter than we were last year and it helped us in what was a grind of a Game I.”

Olivia Kernick. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Alongside Yasmin Clydesdale, who was player of the match for Game I, Jaime Chapman and Caitlan Johnston, Kernick was one of the Blues standout players, topping the yardage count with 171 metres gained. She also made 21 tackles without a miss and contributed to the first try with her precise passing game.

Even more impressive is that Kernick did this at lock, which is a relatively new position for her, showing her versatility as a player.

“I really enjoyed playing at lock; I had the opportunity to play there in the BMD competition too,” said Kernick.

“During our camp, Kylie game me the chance to play lock and it really worked and my teammates really responded to it.

“I’m so excited and keen to keep playing this new role and help the team showcase our talent across the park.”

Kernick is no stranger to representative honours. She has represented the Indigenous All Stars and the Maori All Stars, as well as the Jillaroos. But for Kernick, wearing the Blues jersey is the pinnacle for the women’s game – there’s just something special about it.

“All Stars camps are always really special and hold a really special place in my heart,” said Kernick. “I learnt so much about both my cultures and you play for your teammates and your culture.

“But playing for the Blues is different because the whole state just gets behind it. There’s a feeling a pressure when you put on that jersey but also such a big achievement. Origin is such a spectacle and for the women’s game it is the biggest game in the calendar; it just keeps getting bigger and bigger.”

Jaime Chapman celebrates after scoring. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Even though Kernick plays for the Sydney Roosters in the NRLW, this game at Newcastle will be a homecoming of sorts. Kernick is from the Central Coast and played some of her junior representative football in Newcastle.

Tickets for this game have been sold out for over a week, almost guaranteeing that for the third time in a row the attendance record for women’s Origin will be broken.

The television numbers from Game I were positive too. It was the most-watched women’s Origin match on record and the highest viewership on free-to-air for any NRL or AFL match this year.

With the Matildas selling out Accor Stadium on Monday night, this will be the second sell out for women’s sport this week. Women’s sport isn’t having a moment. It hasn’t arrived. It’s here and our ceiling is still so much higher.

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