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New Zealand Kiwis duo Abigail Roache and Laishon Albert-Jones headline an influx of new talent signed for the nib Newcastle Knights Telstra Women’s Premiership defence in season 2023.

Roache and Albert-Jones were part of the Kiwi Ferns squad that reached the final of last year’s 2021 Rugby League World Cup in England, with Roache featuring in the World Cup Final loss to Australia at Old Trafford.

A cross-code star, Roache took out the 2022 Cathy Friend Women’s Player of the Year title, awarded to the Auckland Rugby League’s most outstanding player, for her efforts with the Richmond Roses during the season.

Equally adept at centre, five eighth or fullback, Roache – the sister of former New Zealand Warriors and Parramatta Eels NRL player Nathaniel Roache – joins the Knights fresh off a season with the Hamilton New Zealand-based Chiefs Manawa in the 2023 Super Rugby Aupiki competition.

Two test Kiwi Fern Albert-Jones – the niece of Kiwis legend Stacey Jones – scored a try and kicked three goals in her international debut against Tonga midway through the 2022 season, after also taking out the Cathy Friend Women’s Player of the Year award in 2021.

She was named at five eighth in the Auckland competition’s team of the year in 2022 but has also featured at lock for Mounties in the Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership.

The 2023 season will be the pair’s first at NRLW level.

“Abigail is an astute defensive backline player who on the back of strong year in the Auckland competition gained selection in the New Zealand world cup squad,” Knights NRLW head coach Ronald Griffiths says.

“She has a great attitude and desire to continue to develop into a world class player, and her ability to play multiple positions well will make her a valuable commodity and one we will harness.

“Laishon turned a strong World Cup campaign and a desire for continued growth into a Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership campaign with Mounties this season and finished with a Premiership to her name.

“She is a shrewd ball playing lock who is equally proficient in the halves, and her skill set and deft touch with the boot will hold her in good stead for a great season.”