KIERSTEN DUKE: The touching Penrith Panthers rookie videos and Sky Blues tasting same success as Matildas

KIERSTEN DUKE
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Preston Riki breaks down and Hayley Raso with Matildas fans.
Preston Riki breaks down and Hayley Raso with Matildas fans. Credit: YouTube;Getty Images

“No one watches women’s sport”.

A sentence that noone is uttering in 2024.

It might have just been a friendly on a Monday night, during school term, on the third day of winter, but not one of those things put off Aussie sporting fans as they flooded Accor Stadium to give the Matilda’s their 14th consecutive sold out game.

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Amongst the crowd of 78,798 were the Origin Blues squad.

Including Mary Fowler’s boyfriend who’s apparently a big deal at the Panthers. Joining the Tillie’s with sold out games this week are the Sky Blues with the women’s second State of Origin match set to have a full crowd of 33,000 at McDonald Jones Stadium.

It may be on a Thursday night up in Newcastle, but fans are willing to make the journey to support our girls.

Saying this, please can we host them at Allianz next year? With the rate women’s sport is growing the 45,000 seat stadium would sell out easily. Heck I’d stand outside the stadium daily to sell tickets in the week’s leading up to the game if it meant our girls had a full crowd.

There are plenty of things I love about Origin. One being that while the stars are away, it gives young guns the opportunity to show off their skills at club level.

I might not be a Panthers fan, but I can openly admit that the social media videos they posted of their debutants telling their family the good news brought a few tears to the eye.

For years these fellas would have been working their socks off to get the opportunity to play at club level and finally they’re on the big stage.

Hailing from Rawene, New Zealand, 26-year-old Preston Riki made his first phone call to his nana.

To say she was proud of his achievements was an understatement, and Riki’s emotional response to her reaction meant my eyeballs only had one forecast - rain.

Penrith rookie Trent Toelau has enjoyed a purple patch, welcoming a baby boy three weeks ago and then getting the call up to debut.

One of the most touching moments was when his dad, in true Aussie spirit, asked how many tickets he could get to the game. In my humble opinion, it should be unlimited.

Days after the rookies were told they would play their first NRL game, shock decisions were being made in the Blues camp.

James Tedesco, the former NSW captain was controversially dropped from the team only to be reselected merely days later following his replacement, Dylan Edwards, succumbing to a quad injury.

I wrote last week about how classy Teddy’s response was to this shock decision and surprise surprise, it’s been just as classy since his inclusion.

When asked whether he’d be playing to send a message to coach Michael Maguire about not being picked, Tedesco simply responded that his focus was doing whatever’s best for the team.

While my heart aches for Edwards, I have no doubt he will bounce back and could wrestle his spot back from Teddy.

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