NRLW 2021: Parramatta well placed to become instant powerhouse in expanded competition

Kennedy Cherrington cried plenty of tears when leaving the Roosters, but the chance to build a new powerhouse at Parramatta and represent western Sydney was too tantalising to pass up.

The NRLW’s expansion will give the competition a proper footprint in western Sydney for the first time, and with Cherrington, Tiana Penitani, Simaima Taufa and Botille Vette-Welsh leading the charge, the Eels are set to become an instant powerhouse.

Cherrington claimed rookie of the year honours last season with the Tricolours but jumped at the chance to link up with Parramatta for their maiden campaign.

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NRLW 2021: Parramatta well placed to become instant powerhouse in expanded competition

Camera IconNew Eels recruits Kennedy Cherrington and Tiana Penitani. Credit: Supplied

“Some tears were shed, they’d been such a great club for me and they’re the club that kicked off everything for me. That loyalty side is important to me, but Parramatta is where I needed to be this season,” Cherrington said.

“Being western Sydney born myself, I thought this would be a great opportunity to represent the west. I can’t wait.

“Having a team there helps the area get validated. Some kids out there don’t understand the talent they hold and the opportunities they have.

“Reminding those young boys and girls that western Sydney backs them, that you don’t have to move to somewhere else in Sydney, or to another state, to get a chance.”

Parramatta’s preparation for the season, which will now be held in October after the men’s grand final, has hit a snag with Covid, but is still going ahead.

Players are yet to meet for a proper pre-season or training sessions but are corresponding regularly with coach Dean Widders and the club’s performance staff.

“We’ve been given the go ahead to train from the 30th, lockdown permitting. I’m hoping it comes through, we’re dying to kick things off,” Cherrington said.

“When something gets away from you that you take for granted, like training with the team, you realise how important it is.

Cherrington has been training alongside Blues halfback Maddie Studdon, who is expected to link up with the Eels.

With Fijian halfback Sereana Naitokatoka also joining the ranks, Parramatta look a decent shot of ending Brisbane’s title stranglehold.

But the future is just as exciting for the Eels – with the NSWRL announcing a 20 per cent rise in female participation over the past two years, the pathways towards the elite level are becoming stronger and more defined than ever before.

“The women’s game is so exciting to be a part of because of how quickly it’s growing. In years to come, hopefully, the women’s game keeps progressing the way it is and it becomes something really big and really special. To be able to look back and think you played a part, it’s really exciting for me,” said Penitani.

“The female players are always thinking about future generations and how to leave the game in a better place than we found it.

“There’s a clear pathway that we never had as kids.

“It’s so exciting to see and to have this young talent coming through and push us for our spots, it’s what keeps the game competitive and keeps it growing and makes it a better product.”

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