She was already being touted as a future superstar, but for 17-year-old Jesse Southwell the future has arrived.
In the Knights’ first-ever NRLW win, Southwell put on a clinic to score the opening try of the match.
From first receiver, she danced around two Broncos defenders – unleashing a superlative right-foot step on the way – to crack Brisbane’s defence, before leading her side to a 32-14 win.
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“The next generation has arrived, and her name is Jesse Southwell,” Nine lead commentator Peter Psaltis said.
She won Commonwealth Games gold just three weeks ago, representing Australia in rugby sevens in Birmingham.
She has also spent a significant amount of time working with Andrew Johns.
With a gun kicking game, and the skills to play anywhere, Johns believes she’s a chance to go down as the best No.7 the Knights have ever had.
Despite her age – she had to get an exemption from the NRL to play – she delivered on the hype in bucketloads.
After the game, she said her debut was “hectic”.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun in my life,” she told Nine’s Alanna Ferguson.
“I can’t really believe I’m here, even putting the jersey on, so I couldn’t believe I was here … just gob-smacked actually,” she said.
A common story in the women’s game, Southwell played rugby league until she aged out of the mixed-kids competition, before switching to soccer. She then spent several years playing sevens, before the NRLW came knocking.
Achieving greatness young runs in the family. Her older sister Hannah, who this season lands at the Knights having won the premiership with the Roosters last season, was the W-League’s youngest goalkeeper at 15.
Jesse said the chance to play with her sister was the thrill of a lifetime.
“I’ve had Hannah as my hero, my mentor my entire life. So just to play with Han was kind of my favourite moment,” she said.
“I’ve always wanted to play league … it’s such a massive opportunity and I can’t believe I’m here.”
In her debut, Jesse played all 70 minutes, ran 144 metres, made five tackle busts and registered two linebreaks.
NRLW Highlights: Knights v Broncos – Round 1
At half-time, Ferguson said Southwell was “the full package”.
“Her footwork and speed is next level. The way she kicks the ball, her ball drop … she is the full package and we’re going to see her in this game for a very long time,” she said.
“I cannot believe she is on debut, but I’m excited to watch her (for) the rest of her career. She is something special.”
Broncos great Darren Lockyer also played up the best No.7 gag.
“There’s a saying if you are good enough, you’re old enough,” he said on Nine.
“That right foot, the footwork and speed, the kicking, she has got it all.
“It’s been a long time since Newcastle has been this excited about a No.7.”
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