St George Illawarra captain Kezie Apps predicts the NRLW grand final against the Sydney Roosters will be the hardest game she's ever going to play.
The fourth instalment of the fledgling league, which expanded from four to six teams this season, will culminate in the first stand-alone decider in Redcliffe on Sunday.
Sitting fifth after playing their final regular-season game, the Roosters snuck into fourth place on points differential and then upset three-time defending champions Brisbane last Sunday to earn their spot.
Buoyed by hard-nosed prop Sarah Togatuki's win at the judiciary on Tuesday night, the fairytale script is almost complete for the competition newcomers.
But veteran prop Apps has other ideas, offering a warning of sorts in an otherwise jovial grand-final breakfast in Redcliffe on Friday.
"It's going to be the hardest game that we're ever going to play," she said.
"They've got an amazing forward pack and so have we, it'll be a game won in the middle and hopefully we can get some joy later in the game with our outside backs."
Apps, Hollie Wheeler and Papua New Guinea standout Elsie Albert's bone-crunching hits have set new standards for the code but will be challenged by the freed Togatuki and lock Hannah Southwell.
Dragons coach Jamie Soward insisted influential halfback Rachael Pearson, who returned for the semi-final after being rested in the final round due to back soreness, would be able to handle the contest.
"Rat's fine," Soward said, playing down any comparison to Cooper Cronk's famous 2018 grand-final performance with a badly injured shoulder.
"We could have played her in the last game but made sure she was right for the semi.
"It's refreshing to have someone that's from the country come and just play footy, that's been Rat's MO."
Roosters coach John Strange grinned when asked how they'd curb Dragons fullback Emma Tonegato's influence, with the rugby sevens Olympic gold medallist fresh off a Dally M Medal in her debut season.
"You try and shut those great players down, it's easier said than done," he said.
"But we have a plan and the girls will do their best.
"There's really good match-ups and it'll be a great game, and (with the weather much better than it is currently in Sydney) it'll be a great game of footy.
"Nobody gave us a chance (of beating Brisbane) but the belief to play like that was there internally before that game.
"It showed the mental resilience, but we'll have to step it up again."
Australian Associated Press
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