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Seven NRLW stars in PNG Orchids squad

Inspirational PNG captain Elsie Albert is among seven NRLW players named in the Orchids squad for their Pacific Championships match against Cook Islands on October 22, including five from the North Queensland Cowboys.

Albert, whose NRLW campaign for Parramatta was limited to just 25 minutes due to a calf injury, will be joined by Raiders hooker Ua Ravu and the Cowboys quintet of Essay Banu, Jessikah Reeves, Sareka Mooka, Sera Koroi and Shellie Long.

The 27-year-old prop has led the way for Papua New Guinea players in the NRLW after moving to Australia in 2020 to join Souths Logan Magpies in the Queensland Cup and before being signed by St George Illawarra.

Banu, Reeves, Mooka, Koroi and Long made their NRLW debuts for the Cowboys this season, as did Ravu, who was born in Papua New Guinea and moved to Australia in 1997 after her father was signed by Leeton Greens in the NSW Riverina.

Cowboys coach Ben Jeffries also has charge of the Orchids and he offered Banu, Reeves, Mooka, Koroi and Long an opportunity with the new NRLW team after being impressed by their performances at last year’s World Cup in England.

The quintet are among 12 members of the World Cup squad named for the Pacific Championships, along with Albert and Ravu.

Jessikah Reeves is one of five Cowboys players in the Orchids squad
Jessikah Reeves is one of five Cowboys players in the Orchids squad ©Getty Images

Wentworthville Magpies hooker Roswita Kapo and Brisbane Tigers lock Emily Veivers are other Australian-based players in the squad, along with Victoria-based Sillah Rumints and the Northern Territory’s La-Toniya Norris-Addo.

The PNG squad features six players from the PNGRFL National Women’s Championships,  including Meli Joe and Yolanda Taute, who impressed Jeffries with their performances for the Junior Orchids in last month’s match against the Australian School Girls.

“The journey of the Santos PNG Orchids, has been one that continues to see the advancement of women in the sport and this squad highlights and celebrates the progress of our women and girls," PNG Orchids chair Celestine Ove said. 

"Seeing our NRLW and Australian based players combined with the strong upcoming domestic talent and Juniors is an indication of the evolution of the women’s game.”

Meanwhile, the QRL announced that discussions had been held about the future inclusion of the Papua New Guinea Hunters in the women’s BMD Premiership.

Following consultation with stakeholders across the game and the review of submitted club applications, the Sunshine Coast Falcons and Western Clydesdales have been admitted to the 2024 state competition.

They will be joined by Northern Pride and Ipswich Jets in 2025, and Townsville Blackhawks and Redcliffe Dolphins in 2026, with the Hunters to be considered should funding be available to support their participation.

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.