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Cowboys announce Manzelmann as inaugural NRLW signing

Emma Manzelmann has today been unveiled as the inaugural signing for the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys NRLW team.

Born and raised in North Queensland rugby league stronghold Mackay in 2001, Manzelmann began her football journey with the Walkerston Wanderers in the under 7s and by 2019 she was a member of the Queensland under 18s and the inaugural Cowboys Women’s Academy.

A dynamic dummy half, Manzelmann announced herself on the senior rugby league stage with a stunning two try performance in the North Queensland Gold Stars’ first ever game, in Round 1 of the 2020 BMD Premiership season, which was unfortunately cancelled after one round due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

She returned to the Gold Stars for the 2021 season and was named Player of the Year after a sensational campaign, which included two tries, three try assists and an enormous 112 running metres a game.

Her performances for the Gold Stars earned Manzelmann a contract with the Newcastle Knights for the delayed 2021 NRLW season where she appeared in all five games.

Manzelmann returned to the Gold Stars in 2022 and helped guide the team to premiership glory, starring in the thrilling 14-12 grand final victory over the Central Queensland Capras.

Although that wouldn’t be her only premiership in 2022. Manzelmann returned to the Knights and appeared in all seven games in their march to grand final glory, including the resounding 32-12 victory in the decider over the Parramatta Eels.

In 2023, still aged just 21, Manzelmann returns to North Queensland as an integral signing for Cowboys’ maiden NRLW campaign.

“This a monumental day for both our club and rugby league in North Queensland,” Cowboys CEO Jeff Reibel said.

“In 2019 we outlined our plan to enter a team in the NRLW by 2023, which became a reality with our bid accepted last June, now today we announce our inaugural signing in Emma Manzelmann.

“Emma epitomises everything our club stands for. Hailing from Mackay, she is a North Queensland girl who has progressed through our development program and has dreamt of playing on rugby league’s biggest stage, she will now have that opportunity whilst not having to leave her home region.

“Anita Creenaune and Ben Jeffries have done a terrific job building the framework for our maiden NRLW season under difficult circumstances as we have waited on the new Collective Bargaining Agreement and we look forward to announcing more exciting signings over the coming weeks.”

Cowboys Inaugural signing Emma Manzelmann and Cowboys NRLW Head Coach Ben Jeffries
Cowboys Inaugural signing Emma Manzelmann and Cowboys NRLW Head Coach Ben Jeffries

Cowboys NRLW Head Coach Ben Jeffries said Manzelmann was earmarked early in the recruiting process.

“Emma was always one of our main targets. She is an elite talent who is homegrown and came through our pathways system, which made her signature a priority,” Jeffries said.

“Emma is a two-time Gold Stars Player of the Year. She brings a competitive edge, which drives high standards for herself and her teammates. Second best is not in Emma’s vocabulary and that’s a trait we admire here at Cowboys.

“She is humble and grateful for every opportunity presented to her, both of which are values this club has been built on, which is why we earmarked her as one of the key players to lay foundations around as we embark on building our first ever NRLW squad.”

In further exciting news for the club, North Queensland Toyota Cowboys Platinum Partner XXXX has teamed up with the club’s maiden NRLW squad in a milestone multi-year foundation partnership.

The partnership will see the XXXX logo displayed prominently on the Cowboys NRLW squad’s playing shorts for the NRLW Premiership season.

Reibel said XXXX’s investment in the Cowboys first NRLW squad brought the three-decade long partnership full-circle. 

“As they did with the club in 1995, XXXX have shown true commitment to backing the continued development of elite footballers in the North,” Reibel said.

Acknowledgement of Country

North Queensland Cowboys respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.