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With the 2023 NRLW season having just kicked off, Dragons NRLW coach Jamie Soward has opened up on why his halves pairing have the potential to be the “best ever.”

One of the 24 players proud to don the Red V for this season is the reigning Dally M medallist and Kiwi Fern, Raecene McGregor. The 25-year-old halfback steered the Roosters to a premiership in the rescheduled 2021 season and then backed it up with the Dally M the following season as well as claiming 2022 Golden Boot honours. McGregor has been appointed captain this season, but there’s so much more than her experience and leadership that has impressed Soward.

“I love the fact that she’s a competitor. She’s always wanting the ball and always wanting to pull the trigger on a play. Rae is so well-organised around what she wants to do I don’t have to over-coach her too much in terms of what she needs to do,” he said.

Another major coup for the Dragons is the signing of New Zealand Rugby Sevens star Tyla Nathan-Wong, who is set to partner McGregor in the halves. It’s that combination that Soward believes “has the potential to be the best ever.”

Nathan-Wong wasn’t on the Dragons’ radar until her manager reached out to the club. The 29-year-old is a two-time winner of the New Zealand Sevens Player of the Year and has represented her country at the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and Sevens Rugby World Cups. She played a big part in the Black Ferns claiming gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Besides her obvious skill, it was important that Nathan-Wong could fit in with the Dragons and Soward’s — culture.

“Players were getting shopped around and we interviewed players on whether we felt like it was going to be a fit or not. It’s not just about coming across to get a pay cheque — she probably could’ve gotten paid more back in the Sevens system. She wanted to test herself on the biggest stage,” he said.

Soward said Nathan-Wong who will be McGregor’s vice-captain this season, “has been a fantastic addition” and she “commands so much respect.”

“Her game awareness, being able to execute a skill at high speed I think is something I was surprised with how quickly she picked it up,” he added.

“I feel like that halves pairing in Rae and Tyla has the potential to be the best ever.”