New South Wales Women’s State of Origin captain Kezie Apps confident of facing Queensland

When Kezie Apps felt her leg snap playing for St George Illawarra in the NRLW earlier this month, she feared the worst.

“I honestly thought I broke my leg and thought, ‘Oh no, that’s my good leg,'” Apps said.

“The other leg I’ve broken twice, so I really thought this time I broke it [again].”

The last time Apps felt similar pain was in October 2018 when she fractured her fibula playing for Australia’s national team, the Jillaroos, against New Zealand.


This time around, she was overcome with relief when she was informed the right knee injury she sustained against the Broncos almost three weeks ago was not as severe as first thought.

“I felt the pain transfer to my knee and was so relieved to find out it was a grade-two MCL (medial cruciate ligament), which is up to six weeks [on the sidelines],” Apps said.

Apps, who also suffered concussion in the opening week of the NRLW season, has been named New South Wales captain for the Women’s State of Origin match against Queensland at Sunshine Coast Stadium on November 13.

Despite the devastating end to her NRLW season, the Dragons second rower said she was thrilled to earn selection for what had become a highlight of the Australia rugby league calendar.

“I was so happy,” Apps said.

“I wasn’t sure if I’d be any chance. When I saw the surgeon they said I could be a chance to play and I took that chance with both hands. So I have been working really hard these last two weeks.”

Apps will fly the Sunshine Coast with her Blues teammates on Friday but she is not in the clear yet.

“It’s probably 80-20 if I’ll play or not,” she said.

Isabelle Kelly is desperate to be deemed fit for State of Origin.(AAP: Craig Golding)

Aside from Apps, Blues and Jillaroos star Isabelle Kelly is also racing to prove her fitness after sustaining an ankle injury during the NRLW season.

“We are doing our return-to-play together, rehab together and checking in because it’s such a rollercoaster,” Apps said.

“But we’re on track and really want to be there come Friday the 13th.”

Blues name nine new faces

Blues coach Andrew Patmore has included nine debutants in his 20-player squad as they look to win a third straight State of Origin title.

Keeley Davis, Kennedy Cherrington, Filomina Hanisi, Shanice Parker, Quincy Dodd, Sarah Togatuki, Melanie Howard, Yasmin Meakes and Brydie Parker were the fresh faces picked in the Blues squad.

“It’s a testament to all the girls who have been working hard through COVID and the talent that is coming through, which is so exciting for New South Wales, and I can’t wait to see what they bring,” Apps said.

The Blues’ improved depth led to the shock omission of incumbent halves Maddie Studdon and Kira Dibb, two of the biggest names in women’s rugby league.

“It’s obviously really sad, being a friend of both of them,” Apps said.

“I know Maddie has been struggling with injury. We’ll miss her organising skills and presence, but the coach has seen a lot of faith in these other girls and they’re very deserving of their spot.

“It’s so positive for the game and shows another NRLW team can get involved. We are at the time of expansion.”

Maddie Studdon State of Origin shield
Maddie Studdon (left) has previously been a member of successful Blues squads.(AAP: Craig Golding.)

The Maroons’ squad is perhaps the strongest they have fielded in State of Origin, featuring most of the Brisbane Broncos team, which just won a third consecutive NRLW premiership.

“They’ve got their combinations and know each other,” Apps said.

“It is going to be tough. We can’t even think of the last two years because we are a brand new squad basically and we’ve got two weeks to figure it out, but we’ll be fine.”

Next month’s clash will be the first time a Women’s State of Origin match has been played on Queensland soil.

Interstate matches had been contested in Queensland before they were officially branded State of Origin fixtures in 2018.

“Playing [in Queensland] in 2016, they are just crazy rugby league fans, and with the borders being closed we aren’t going to get many New South Wales fans,” Apps said.

The Blues squad will go into a biosecurity bubble for a fortnight after arriving in Queensland.

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Millie Boyle backs Kezie Apps and Isabelle Kelly to win fitness race for NSW Blues places

Apps then captained the Dragons to their first NRLW grand final, where they were shut down by an Ali Brigginshaw-led Broncos pack at the end of 2019.

“She’s obviously been around the game for a long time and she’s had such a positive impact on the team and she’s such a natural leader … we will definitely need her,” Boyle said. “I’m hopeful that both of them will be back.”

Last year, Kezie Apps was named NSW skipper and led the side to back-to-back shields at North Sydney Oval. Credit:Getty

Earlier this month, the Broncos denied the Dragons’ dream of a premiership with a controversial round two performance that saw Kelly and Apps hobbling off the field before the 60 minutes were up.

Patmore would have had his head in his hands after watching his two biggest stars go down during the Broncos’ 18-4 win, which secured their spot in the grand final. Kelly was injured when a hair pull from Amber Hall turned into an awkward tackle from behind that left the star centre clutching her ankle. Apps suffered a medial problem with her right knee in the first half and watched the rest of the game from the bench.

The Broncos went on to beat the Roosters in the decider on Sunday, claiming their third premiership in a row.

Isabelle Kelly on crutches at Bankwest Stadium.

Isabelle Kelly on crutches at Bankwest Stadium.Credit:Getty

“We’ve got a lot of depth in the [NSW] squad and there are a lot of girls stepping up this year throughout the season and they’ve been playing good club footy,” Boyle said. “There is a definitely the depth there to cover for their spots if they’re not able to play.”

The Blues squad will head to Queensland on Friday, where the group will spend two weeks in isolation.

“It’s two-and-a-half weeks by the time we’re finished and that’s a lot of time away for one game,” Boyle said. “It’s a massive ask for a lot of people.”

The players will be restricted to using facilities at the hotel and have received an exemption from the Queensland government to use Sunshine Coast Stadium for training during their isolation.

Like the men’s version, the women’s State of Origin was delayed until after the season due to COVID-19. The women’s State of Origin will take place on November 13.

“It’s great to now have Origin after the NRLW because you can really see how everyone’s performed, it will just be picked up a level this year,” Boyle said. “Both squads are getting stronger so it’s just more competition.”

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