The Townsville Redemption: Sky Blues eye Origin III

Jasper Bruce |

Kezie Apps, seen making a break in Newcastle, seeks redemption for last year in Townsville.
Kezie Apps, seen making a break in Newcastle, seeks redemption for last year in Townsville.

It still hurts NSW co-captain Kezie Apps to think about losing last year’s two-match women’s State of Origin series on aggregate, despite winning the second game in Townsville.

But 12 months on from that “weird” scenario, the Sky Blues have a shot at redemption when they travel to far north Queensland for the decider of the inaugural three-match series.

Deserving winners in Origin I last month, the Sky Blues looked on the path to a series victory at Newcastle’s McDonald Jones Stadium on Thursday night, only for the Maroons to storm back into the contest late.

A clutch field goal from Lauren Brown sealed the visitors’ 11-10 win in the driving rain and kept the series alive heading into game three at Queensland Country Bank Stadium on June 27.

Queensland Maroons celebrate 2023
Queensland Maroons celebrate their 2023 Origin series win, despite losing in Townsville. (Scott Radford-Chisholm/AAP PHOTOS)

The fateful match will be played a little more than a year after NSW levelled the controversial two-match women’s Origin series, coming from behind to seal a gutsy 18-14 win behind enemy lines.

But because the Maroons had won game one in Sydney by a greater margin – 18-10 – Queensland were the ones celebrating a series victory on stage with the Origin shield, rather than the Sky Blues.

The two-match Origin concept was wildly unpopular with women’s players, who were both confused by the decision not to aim for parity with the men’s three-match series, and concerned by the chance of a drawn series – a scenario that eventuated.

“Last year was just really unfortunate how it ended,” Apps said after Thursday night’s loss.

“I’m not going to lie and say that that doesn’t still sting and still hurt that we lost last year’s series. That’s just me personally.

“I’m going to be doing everything that I can in these next couple of weeks to make sure that I’m prepared as best as possible and I know all the girls will as well.”

Apps’ co-captain Isabelle Kelly said the bittersweet memories from last year’s decider would fuel her side as it looked to make history by taking out the first three-match series.

“I think it’s the same for everyone,” she said.

“It was something that was really unique within itself that we had to experience.

“It was a bit weird but the beauty about Townsville is that people love to watch women’s footy. We’re all super excited to be able to head up there and play some good footy.”

The Sky Blues are hoping for some classic dry Queensland weather after rain in Newcastle meant they struggled to reprise the expansive style of play that won them the first game in Brisbane.

“We sort of had to tighten it up a little bit, which we don’t like to,” said coach Kylie Hilder.

“(NSW) will be ready and raring to have redemption in Townsville in a few weeks’ time, especially, as we’ve mentioned the memories of Queensland celebrating after it was a draw last year.

“But we seem to play better in warmer weather.”