The 2023 NRLW has seen new stars rise, existing stars perform and other players that were on the cusp of being elite now reaching that level.
And this is what makes selecting just seventeen players to make a team of the season so difficult. It does mean that some players have to miss out.
Not due to poor form but simply due to others perhaps being slightly ahead or being more influential towards their teams wins and successes.
So here you have it, our 2023 NRLW Team of the Season:
1. Teagan Berry (SGI) – It was very much a toss-up between Berry and Upton but Berry’s record this season in terms of leading from the front, getting her side’s attack on the front foot, has been second to none.
Berry has been phenomenal for the Dragons every week; from her work ethic, to her try-scoring ability, to her reckless abandon with ball in hand and so much more.
If there was ever someone who has the potential to truly be one of the greatest fullbacks the women’s game has ever seen, it is Teagan Berry.
And she’s only 20.
2. Madison Bartlett (CAN) – You could Madison Bartlett on any team and it is guaranteed that she will score tries. Though as prolific as her try-scoring record is in the NRLW, she has far more noticeable playing attributes.
A selfless team player, Bartlett’s resilience, work ethic, passion and love for the game cannot be understated.
Whether you tell her to play wing, centre, fullback, even lock if she had to, she would do it, and that’s the sort of player and person that Bartlett is.
As the Raiders continue to satisfy their mojo, Bartlett’s try-scoring efforts are not about to stop any time soon.
3. Isabelle Kelly (SYD) – There is probably no more destructive backline player in the NRLW than Isabelle Kelly. A perennial tackle-buster, Kelly has been around since the inaugural NRLW season and has never looked back, not even once.
A tough, swift runner of the ball, her fearless approach to hitups often see her break a tackle or even two, as defences often struggle to contain her.
That, and the rate at which she scores tries or is involved in them, are probably why many regard her as the best centre in the game and rightfully so.
There is little in the game that she has not achieved but her legacy in the game is far from over.
4. Cheyelle Robins-Reti (CAN) – Before the season started, we’ll be honest, we had not heard of Robins-Reti. As Canberra built their side, naming her left us with eagerness to see how she would perform.
And by gosh, has she fired on all cylinders in her debut season. Not only has she formed a tremendous partnership on her flank with fellow team of the year member Madi Bartlett, she has found a way to stake her own claim.
A swashbuckling centre that is difficult to tackle, she makes beating opponents look easy as she either flies past them or goes through them.
Her stats this year indicate a tremendous season and she would be a genuine candidate for rookie of the year honours.
5. Jakiya Whitfield (WST) – Yet another natural but one to watch for the future, Whitfield, like several counterparts in this team, also enjoys busting tackles for fun.
Her work ethic, her meterage, her desire to perform and every facet of her game, have often seen her end up as one of the Tigers best on ground, if not the best player just about every game.
Her smaller stature may have some wondering how she has such an impact but she runs with such heart, ticker and venom, that her size almost catches you by surprise.
Before you know it, she’s jutted past you either with deceptive strength or quick feet.
Like Robins-Reti, she is also a rookie of the year candidate.
6. Tarryn Aiken (SYD) – Tarryn Aiken was a player made for the NRLW scene. She showed the form and the glimpses at the Broncos under Ali Brigginshaw but the question remained; when she branched out elsewhere, could she be a star?
And the answer is a resounding yes, as Aiken has been a hugely influential factor in the recent Roosters’ resurgence and their overall season.
Again, her size may have some wondering just how she can do what she does but she’s all heart and desire; no matter whether she makes runs and breaks, or whether she is laying tries on.
Either way, Aiken finds a way to be involved in just about every Roosters play and she has well and truly established herself as an elite five-eighth in the NRLW.
7. Jesse Southwell (NEW) – Rarely do you see a young half that takes such little time to show her skills, her leadership and her presence but Southwell has all those attributes.
A talented player who is only going to get better and better with every game she plays, Southwell’s ability to take control of a game is a tremendous asset for someone of her age, almost indicative of a player that is wiser and smarter beyond their years.
Her ability to hold the play up, deliver a quick, short pass, a long, looping ball or a kick of any kind – be it short, long or crossfield – are all strong elements of her game.
As the old adage goes, the world is her oyster, and it should be no surprise to see Southwell at the top as an elite half for the next ten years.
8. Shannon Mato (GLD) – If there was ever a time to propel yourself into the spotlight as an elite prop, this was the year and Shannon Mato has excelled on all cylinders in 2023.
Etching herself in the elite class, Mato’s numbers have been consistent and twice this year, she has amassed 200+ running metres, somewhat of a rarity for NRLW forwards – including a colossal 286 metres just a few weeks ago.
Alongside teammates Jessika Elliston and Georgia Hale, the Titans middle has been a focal point both in defence and attack, and it is Mato’s efforts consistently setting the benchmark and making her a worthy addition to the team of the year.
9. Lauren Brown (GLD) – To think that when she first started NRLW, Brown was named more exclusively as a half or a running five-eighth.
Fast forward a few seasons and we are, with Brown playing in perhaps the most demanding rugby league position of all, at hooker, and excelling.
On two occasions this year, she has come to her team’s aid with crucial field goals but it is not only accuracy with kicks where she has excelled.
Brown’s smarts and game awareness allow her to link up seamlessly with her key forwards and her quick, precise passing allows for plenty of opportunities on both flanks.
10. Sarah Togatuki (WST) – Another lady that is far and away in the elite category of props and she showed it every week. Big metres, long minutes, scoring tries and making it all look easy, Togatuki is far and away the best prop in the NRLW this season.
Although her efforts have at times propelled the Tigers towards victory, they will want the rest to go with her and match Togatuki’s efforts.
The premiership winner will once again be hungry in 2024 for more success and you would back her to emulate the same or similar numbers next year as well.
11. Olivia Kernick (SYD) – While all the focus at the Roosters may often be on their litany of starts in the forward pack and the backline, perhaps an unsung hero of the team and a consistent performer is this talented back-rower, Olivia Kernick.
Kernick runs hard, plays hard, hits hard, and has tremendous skills both on and off the ball to maximise her impact.
She runs tremendous lines that you would expect from your back-rowers but she also has the ability to ball-play out wide, either via direct passes or offloads to her teammates to produce tries.
That dual threat as a back-rower is something that not many are capable of and her ability to do that makes the Roosters right edge even more potent on a weekly basis.
12. Christian Pio (WST) – Consistency is always the aim for any player and another Tigers forward who produced her top efforts every week at the Tigers alongside Togatuki was Pio.
A hard-running back-rower, Pio can also play through the middle but it was her work and consistency out wide that saw Tigers fans impressed with what she was able to provide.
Pio’s ability to adapt made life easier for times at the Wests Tigers and she will hope that the likes of Emily Curtain and others are around to solidify already strong combos.
13. Simaima Taufa (CAN) – There is no denying that Taufa has been perhaps the most consistent middle forward in the women’s game and in the NRLW since its inception.
No matter who she plays for, where she plays, Taufa is a pillar of consistency with her numbers, her leadership, her skills, and her ability to lead from the front, Taufa’s exploits and effort always put her team in the contest.
Teammates rave about her and what she brings to the clubs she plays for and rightfully so; for she has earned the mantle as one of the women’s greatest middle forwards not just from now but easily ever.
14. Caitlan Johnston (NEW) – Another crucial performer of the Knights setup, it was a surprise to see Johnston line up in the back-row at times this season but it did not seem to minimise her impact.
A hard-nosed, battle-hardened forward, Johnston pulls no punches and crashes into her opponents both with and without the ball with reckless abandon.
Throw in some offloading skills, quick footwork and football smarts and you have the making of an elite footballer.
And the Knights fans know how lucky they are to have her in their club.
15. Mele Hufanga (BRI) – It would have to be a no-brainer for Mele Hufanga to win rookie of the year in the Dally M this season for the NRLW.
She proved herself to be a genuine wrecking ball every game as she seemingly bulldozed defenders for fun, showing off her raw power.
In a crucial get for the Broncos, it is that x-factor type ability that might give them the slightest of chances no matter the odds they face.
Not to mention she equalled a long-standing NRLW record of four tries in a game; a feat rarely achieved.
16. Jessika Elliston (GLD) – Alongside her teammate Shannon Mato, there was no better one-two prop rotation in the the NRLW this season.
Both proved their worth and their consistency as they often battled it out with each other when it came to who could end up with the most metres.
In the end, both finish the season in the upper echelons of NRLW props and deservedly so, with both forming not only a partnership with each other but setting the benchmark for their team to produce and make the finals.
That one-two punch will remain just as crucial for the finals.
17. Millie Boyle (SYD) – Her move to the Roosters at the start of this season shocked many but to no-one’s surprise, Millie Boyle picked up where she left off.
A perennial superstar in the NRLW, she has the chance to cement herself as one of the greatest ever if her current trajectory continues.
The multiple NRLW premiership winner has everything you want in your middle forward; size, hunger, passion, footwork, work ethic and just the ability to do what the team needs.
Boyle’s efforts are readily spoken of and rightfully so.
Coach: Darren Borthwick (CAN) – It should surprise no-one that our pick here is Darren Borthwick. In a season with four new expansion teams and many questions, Borthwick galvanised his Raiders side to perform consistently from round 1 and brought them to the very cusp of the NRL finals.
Led by a strong mix of experience and youth, his formula worked well as the side gelled and meshed and were able to get their way against fancied teams or remain in the contest.
The Raiders will be buoyed by their inaugural season and with a few slight additions, finals might be on the cards for 2024.