Although reaching a grand final in her debut NRLW season proved just out of grasp for Ashleigh Werner and her Broncos teammates – after a 6-point semi-final loss to reigning premiers the Knights in Newcastle on September 24 – the Jewish bobsledder-turned-rugby league winger has plenty of positives to ponder.
The match, her seventh, was televised live on the Nine Network – as per all NRLW games in 2023 – and played in front of a record NRLW standalone crowd of 12,689, which was in full voice in the first half, when the Knights raced to an 18-0 lead.
A gallant Broncos outfit hit back by scoring a try on either side of the break to trail by 10-18.
Both sides traded tries in the next half-hour, but missed conversions cost Brisbane dearly, until captain Ali Brigginshaw nailed one from the sideline after a Broncos try with less than three minutes remaining, to set up a blockbuster finish.
Werner – who earlier this year played in the NSWRLW for the Tigers – made hit-ups and kick returns against a ruthless Knights defence, copping plenty of contact, yet was able to gain 81 running metres, bust one tackle, and make four tackles of her own.
During the NRLW regular season, she scored two tries, gained 406 running metres, and made 24 tackles, while only missing four tackles.
Women’s Broncos coach Scott Prince said,”I’m super proud of the girls – they showed some real guts, grit and character, in the way they fought back”.
Werner feels grateful to be part of “an amazing Broncos team”, and a supportive club with “such passionate fans”. The Sydney native – who balances her footy with a corporate job and post-graduate studies – also reflected on how, “Professional women’s sport is in such a good place, and quite frankly, it’s quite an honour to be part of it”.
“When I was little, I never saw a pathway into this,” she told The AJN, “and now there are young girls watching it on TV, going to NRLW games, and saying yeah, I want to do that”.
“And there’s a pathway for them now, and that’s really special.
“What’s just as cool, and important, is that boys are also going to our games, asking for autographs, and growing up respecting female players.
“And I think that’s such a key part of growing the women’s game as well.”