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Hilder puts new-look side down to selection camp stars

New South Wales coach Kylie Hilder has credited a seven-week training camp for the selection of new halves pairing Corban Baxter and Rachel Pearson for Game One of the 2024 Ampol Women's State of Origin series.

Hilder has named a new-look side for the series opener with several changes from the team that won last year's second game in Townsville with 30-year-old Baxter set to line up for the first time since 2021 alongside Pearson who returns after featuring in Game One in 2023.

Their Queensland rivals had the perfect hit-out ahead of their series opener through the BMD Premiership, but after the NSW state-based competition was moved to July, Hilder began Origin preparations early to overcome a lack of game time for the Westpac Sky Blues.

And after Knights premiership-winning halfback Jesse Southwell was a surprise omission from the team named on Wednesday, Hilder said the 36-player camp ultimately showed who was in the best form to steer her side for Game One.

“We’ve had a couple of changes and that’s a result of being able to have this group together for the seven weeks and we’ve gone with Rachael and Corban who complement each other in the halves,” Hilder said on Wednesday.

“Rachael is a great half in that she controls the game, has a great kicking game and that was an area that we really did lack last year with our halves.

“Rachael has been outstanding, she’s really fit and she’s ready to go. She just fits the way we want to play and the style we want to play.

“And Corban just complements her with that running style of a five-eighth so looking forward to having both of them in the halves and they’ve got some experience as well which is a bonus.”

After making her NSW Origin debut at five-eighth last year, Southwell took over halfback duties in Game Two after Pearson was dropped from the side.

With her sister Hannah also missing selection for the series opener on May 16, Hilder assured the entire extended squad they could be called upon at anytime during the new three-game fixture.

“Like all the players (Jesse) is obviously disappointed but it is a three game series, she is young and there’s plenty of time,” Hilder said.

“We’re just excited about the halves that we’ve got ready to go for Game One.

“And all players that have missed out in that 36 do understand that at anytime we may need to call on them and they need to be prepared and ready.”


The new halves pair join marquee Sharks signing Caitlan Johnston as one of the new additions to the 2024 squad, while Olivia Higgins and Grace Kemp are also set for their Origin debuts after being included in the team.

Jakiya Whitfeld, Kirra Dibb and Ellie Johnston have been named as reserves.

Seasoned campaigners Kezie Apps and Isabelle Kelly will again lead the team as co-captains while former Jillaroos Ruan Sims and Sam Bremner have been named as Hilder’s assistant coaches.

New South Wales will begin their preparations for the Origin series opener this week before heading north to Brisbane on Tuesday.

New South Wales squad for Game One

  1. Emma Tonegato 
  2. Jaime Chapman 
  3. Jess Sergis 
  4. Isabelle Kelly (c) 
  5. Tiana Penitani 
  6. Corban Baxter 
  7. Rachael Pearson 
  8. Millie Elliott
  9. Olivia Higgins 
  10. Caitlan Johnston 
  11. Yasmin Clydsdale 
  12. Kezie Apps (c)
  13. Keeley Davis 
  14. Taliah Fuimaono 
  15. Olivia Kernick 
  16. Grace Kemp 
  17. Sarah Togatuki 
  18. Jakiya Whitfeld 
  19. Kirra Dibb
  20. Ellie Johnston

Coach: Kylie Hilder

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.