Foundation Stone


The search for the foundation stone of the Canberra Raiders women’s team appears to be over, with the Daily Telegraph’s David Riccio seemingly reporting that star second-rower Shaylee Bent is coming to Canberra.

As yet the reporting has been exclusively done in reference to David Fifita’s potential signature (sigh), and Riccio even managed to make his seeming confirmation be a reference relative to Fifita (double sigh).

Dave Fifita’s partner is off to the Raiders and you can put the Raiders in the mix, absolutely. They are keen – I know that for a fact

Riccio on Triple M

In Riccio’s defence the conversation was about Fifita. Regardless, from that I’m taking that as reporting from Riccio.

While we had hoped the Raiders would pick up Millie Boyle, Bent would be an equally inspired start to building the Valkryries. She’s just 22 and she’s currently already a member of the Australian squad about to bring home the women’s world cup. She’s already played for the New South Wales State of Origin team, the Indigenous All-Stars and even the Australian 9s team. She’s won St. George’s player of the year (for 2021 season) in a team that included Kezie Apps and Emma Tonegato.

Bent is a wide-running backrower with a good clip of pace and agility – just look at her not only get moving here, but put a move on the fullback, then palm her off. She’s averaging 84 metres a game in the NRLW, a providing excellent edge defence with a tackle efficiency higher than the best around (just under 93 percent). As NSW Origin coach Andrew Patmore said: “(She runs) great lines, (is a) tough runner of the footy and just a quality all-rounder.”. Bent happily covers the full 70 minutes of game time, meaning the Raiders will be able to focus their rotations on other areas.

If I had a criticism it’s that it’s not normally where you start a team with. It’s harder to influence a game independently from back row than it is from either the spine or a middle forward position, and Bent’s playing style is more as the ‘finisher’ rather than the starter of movements. If Canberra spend their marquee position (i.e. the ‘off cap’ position they can use to go all out on financially) on a backrower they better be sure that Bent can help build the culture of the club, lest her on-field impact be hamstrung by on-field growing pains.

Fortunately, Bent seems to have the kind of attitude the Raiders need to help build a club culture. Bent has previously spoken of her desire to be a leader.

Dad instilled one saying into all us kids – be a leader, not a follower … Especially growing up, that crucial decision, whether you lead or follow, can change your whole life. And it’s stuck with me, I say it almost every day.


She’s also a leader of her community.

As an Indigenous athlete, I feel like I have a responsibility to the kids who look up to me … You’ve got to keep performing and keep yourself in line. You are that role for that generation of kids coming along…I feel like I have a responsibility now because I’ve made that elite level. If we want generations to come in, we’ve got to keep performing.


Bent’s leadership translates to the community-minded focus of her day job. She works for an organisation providing support for Aboriginal people impacted by past government policies, in particular those who have been left devastated and disconnected from communities as a result of the Stolen Generations. Like anyone pursuing a passion semi-professionally, she’s managed to fit footy around this job and her regular life. As she told Code Sports, she only gets to sleep in her own bed for less than a quarter of the year.

It’s this kind of mix of commitment, personal accountability and community focus that it takes to bring together a squad in the short time Canberra will have before their inaugural 2023 season. That challenge is a critical one for the Valkyries to meet, in part because the year-to-year nature of culture development means the club needs people willing to do the work both on and off-field consistently, to build an organisation that can be sustainable and successful over the longer term. Bent, again only 22, clearly gets that.

This is just the start, but it’s a sound one, to building a club from the ground up. Bent will be a perfect foundation stone.

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