Chapman shines as Indigenous side triumphs

Troy Whittaker |

Jaime Chapman was in doubt for the Indigenous All Stars until match eve but overcame a calf injury to claim player of the match honours in Saturday night’s 18-8 win over the Maori Ferns.

The 19-year-old St George Illawarra winger collected a try double and the Trish Hina Medal at Parramatta’s CommBank Stadium on Saturday as the Indigenous women avenged last year’s 24-0 rugby league defeat.

The Indigenous team were under the pump at stages during a scoreless opening 23 minutes.

But Chapman pushed her tight calf to the limit when she swooped on an error and bolted 90 metres to break the deadlock in the second quarter. 

Indigenous coach Ben Jeffries revealed Chapman had been “wrapped in cotton wool” and wasn’t confirmed to start until she passed a fitness test on Friday.

“To prepare herself mentally and go out and produce that, it’s a really special moment for her,” he said.

“That could be the telling point of her career even though she’s only 20 this year.”

Indigenous fullback Tamika Upton, a two-time NRLW premiership winner with Brisbane, enjoyed a strong maiden All Stars appearance and set up Chapman’s second try with a sensational cut-out pass.

The 24-year-old’s Stars debut had been delayed by a pre-booked holiday to Bali in 2020 – when she wasn’t expecting selection – and an injury last year. 

“She’s probably the best player in the world at this point,” Jeffries said.

Upton and rival No.1 Botille Vette-Welsh traded moments of brilliance, the latter helping set up Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly for both of the Maori team’s tries.

Maori coach Keith Hanley praised his middle forwards including lock Kennedy Cherrington, who played the full 60 minutes and recorded 142 metres and 26 tackles.

“The girls certainly weren’t lacking in terms of having a good dig and ripping in,” Hanley said.

The Maori Ferns were within striking distance at 12-8 at the end of the third quarter.

But prop Tommaya Kelly-Sines powered over for a try not long after the restart, giving the Indigenous women a commanding lead that was extended by Kirra Dibb (three goals from three attempts).

Chapman nearly grabbed a stylish hat-trick after steaming onto a Dibb chip but Ferns skipper Corban Baxter pulled off a crucial tackle to bring down the flyer.

“They did it for themselves, their mob and their families,” Jeffries said of his squad.

“It’s been a massive week, but to cap it off like that – how they defended their arses off at times – I’m pretty proud.”

A crowd of 10,066 watched the Indigenous women square the All Stars ledger at two wins apiece, having begun their rivalry with the Maori Ferns in 2019.