The Newcastle Knights have signed Millie Boyle for the 2022 season. To see whether this is the end of the dream of her leading a new Canberra Raiders women’s team in 2023, or is business as usual, we need to pay close attention to Canberra’s currently ongoing negotiations with Adam Elliott.
As you probably know, Elliott’s signature comes with a fascinating caveat. He and his partner, women’s rugby league star Millie Boyle, are reportedly keen to to sign in the same city (or for the same club). For any club that has, or plans to have, an NRLW team this is noteworthy. Get yourself a Dally M winner and an excellent Swiss-army knife as a package deal. What a world we live in. Canberra won’t have a team until 2023 at the earliest, so keen eyes will turn to whether her partner is staying or going after this season.
As we’ve noted for some time, our feeling has been the inclination of Millie Boyle was to sign for Canberra as soon as they have a women’s team. There’s the familial connection. The fact she stood beside Don Furner at the launch of the club’s pitch for a team in 2021. That Furner stood in front of the media at that event and said that she would be the key target should they get a side. The fact that shes been in and around the club all season (such as old boys day against the Dogs the other week).
Given the women’s Raiders will be financially viable, and expand the grasp of the NRLW’s talent acquisition into the currently ignored hot-beds of the Riverina and the south coast, the only thing missing for a Canberra bid is guaranteed quality. As with David Grant in 1982, Millie Boyle will bring legitimacy to the new side. The Raiders bid is already one of the best on the table for next year’s expansion. If V’Landys gets his wish to expand the NRLW from 6 to 10 teams as soon as possible, Canberra is virtually assured a spot. Millie Boyle would be the perfect women’s Raider number one.
It’s silly to argue causality, because one can’t tell if Elliott would be staying because Millie might be coming, or the other way around. But the correlation feels strong, and Elliott’s signature could be the evidence we need that Millie Boyle could still be coming back to her spiritual home and become the franchise star of the new side. Quite the potential package deal. And if Sticky is to believed, it’s a deal that is coming sooner rather than not at all.
“I want to keep him here, and talks with Kelly Egan and David Riolo are all very healthy at the moment, so I’m very confident that will be the case. It’s just a matter of tying up a few bits and pieces to their communications of the deal.”Sticky to the Canberra Times
Not quite a done deal but good signs. Obviously it’s not guaranteed to happen, and even if it does happen, it’s not guaranteed to ensure Boyle’s arrival in Canberra. Elliott and Boyle have their own careers and ambitions to pursue. We’d just really like if they both pursued them with the Milk.
It’s not just a deal linked to Millie coming to town. Elliott is a good signing in his own right. He came to Canberra as a risk. As we wrote last year, flaming out of the Dogs on what appeared to be a mixture of character and cap issues wasn’t exactly the best reference. Without access to the upper echelons of the player market, sometimes the Raiders need to hit the fringes of the market to get better. Once it was Queensland, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. Lately it’s been England. But in between, finding distressed assets has been always been a greater-than-zero part of the growth strategy. Corey Harawira-Naera is another example, as is Dane Tilse. Canberra has always trusted its culture as a “more country than city” would be the environment that these players needed to get get their behaviour in order. Often they’ve been proven correct (although, in some notable circumstances the house has taken their money – see Ferguson, Blake).
Elliott, to this point, has proven the gamble right. It’s taken some time for him to establish a role, but Swiss Army knife isn’t a bad one. Sometimes at back row, sometimes at hooker, and more recently, some very good minutes as a middle forward have been critical to keep Canberra treading water this season. 125 and 150 plus metres in his last two outings are handy from any rotation forward, but when that player can man literally any position in your pack it’s a weapon. When healthy, Canberra shouldn’t need to carry a back-up hooker, and they wouldn’t need to worry about covering an edge in case of injury. It would allow them to carry utility backs as “break glass in case of emergency” players – though some may debate the utility of this – without upsetting their normal middle rotations.
And this has been noted by Coach Stuart:
“It’s difficult for a backrower to go into nine, but it shows his utility value in being able to sustain some time there. He’s doing a really good job for us in these difficult times.”Ricky Stuart to the Canberra Times
Elliott is 27, so two years will mean the Raiders get the best of his prime. Call it a pay-off for a gamble won. All word out of the club is he’s a excellent addition to the culture of the club, which doubly justifies both the focus of the gamble but also the reasoning. Get the kids away from the Daily Telegraph and Triple M and suddenly their behaviour improves. I wonder what could be going on there?
We’ll be watching closely. Elliott would be undoubtedly a good signing for the Milk, a handy signing for the Milk, particularly assuming the cost was as humble as the tenure. But the deal has reflections and ramifications that could be big for the Raiders, and rugby league in the region more generally.
So congratulations to Millie Boyle, we wish her the best for the Knights in the upcoming NRLW season. We’ll be watching closely. But the dream of her being the next David Grant, the heart, soul and legitimacy of a new Canberra Raiders women’s rugby league team, is not over yet.
If you do us a solid and like our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or share this on social media i’ll tell you why we refuse to give up on Millie. Don’t hesitate to send us feedback (thesportress at gmail dot com) or comment below if you think we are stupid. Or if we’re not.