She’s the pint-sized rookie who has earned glowing praise from Andrew Johns, but Jesse Southwell won’t be on the pints or even the cans if the Knights beat Parramatta in the NRLW Grand Final.
That’s because the NRLW Rookie of the Year is still only 17 but is doing things that her teammates have never seen and at such a level that leaves her coach shaking his head for all the right reasons.
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Most teenagers are studying history books or doing comparative texts that leave them more confused than necessary.
But Southwell is cut from a different cloth and is instead a student of the game who has all the talent to be the greatest women’s player for years to come, according to Knights legend Andrew Johns.
She’s won a gold medal playing rugby sevens for Australia at the Commonwealth Games, she’s led a Knights team to the grand final after they didn’t win a game last season, and she’s done it all before her 18th birthday.
“She’s a pretty incredible athlete,” star fullback Tamika Upton said.
“The thing I love most about her is that she’s got such a calm head out there for a young kid. She backs everyone else on the field and gives me a lot of confidence.
“I haven’t played with someone like that, so I’m really excited to see her play this weekend.”
That’s a telling statement from someone who has played with the biggest stars in the game at the highest level, but it speaks to just how talented Southwell is.
She arrived in the NRLW with plenty of hype but some questioned whether someone so young could lead a team around the park.
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It took just five minutes to allay those fears when she put on her patented right foot step to slice through Brisbane’s defence in front of a big home crowd in the Hunter.
She heads into the decider with the second-most try assists in the league and with a massive trophy from Dally M night, but none of the glory has affected her ahead of the big game against Parramatta.
According to her coach, it’s because she’s prepared for every scenario that she may face.
“She’s a student of the game,” Ronald Griffiths said.
“She represented Australia at the Comm Games and won a gold medal. That takes a very mature athlete to be able to do that.
“Away from the football park, when you talk to Jesse about the game, she understands the game and reads the game.
“She’s still so young but her football maturity is beyond her years.
“We sit down and we might talk about a game and what she did and what she didn’t know, and she’ll already have all the answers for things that went wrong. Being a student of the game helps with her maturity in rugby league.”