St. George Illawarra Dragons coach, Jamie Soward, has expressed his belief that Maddison Weatherall has the potential to become the best prop in the NRLW. After a three-year hiatus from the league, the 21-year-old made her impressive return in just her second match, helping the Dragons defeat Parramatta 38-12 at WIN Stadium. Weatherall’s standout performance included a crucial tackle on Jillaroos enforcer Kennedy Cherrington, which resulted in a turnover and eventually led to Teagan Berry’s try.
“I’m so proud of Maddi Weatherall,” Soward said. “She’ll be the best prop in the world, probably in a year or two, once she fully gets fit and understands how good she is.”
Weatherall, who previously played in an NRLW Grand Final in 2019, took a break from the sport in 2020 and dropped off the radar for three years due to the competition’s postponement in 2021 and her pregnancy with daughter Lariah.
Coached back into the game by Soward, Weatherall is now balancing her NRLW commitments with motherhood. Before Dragons training in Wollongong, she was with her partner Max Feagai, who plays for the Samoa World Cup team, and their 10-month-old daughter Lariah.
“It is pretty cool to both be able to play for the Dragons and have our baby with us,” said Weatherall.
The couple manages their parenting responsibilities by taking turns attending training sessions. Weatherall shared, “One goes to training and comes back, and then the other goes to training.” This arrangement allows them to provide care for their child while pursuing their sporting careers.
For Weatherall, being a mother has been a significant factor in her decision to return to the game. “I love footy, and I always wanted to come back, but this is what I wanted – my baby. She is always on my mind. It was hard at the start, but it was cool that Sowie had faith in me, and a lot of people had faith, so that it made it easier. Now that I am here, it is good to be back.”
Soward, who has been impressed by Weatherall’s skills and potential since she dominated the junior ranks, expressed his satisfaction with her return to the Dragons. He recognised the challenges Weatherall faces as both an athlete and a parent, stating, “Anyone who is a parent knows how hard looking after kids is. She is coming here late and some days she brings the little one into video sessions, she is that dedicated to wanting to be the best. I am really proud of all our mums who play, but I just love the fact that Maddi is back at our club.”
Despite Weatherall’s doubts about her abilities, Soward believes in her talent and potential to play at the highest level. “I know what Maddi Weatherall can be, she was the best in her age group in under 18s three years ago,” Soward said. “She is really good. I’ve always known she was a star since I watched her in the lower grades, but sometimes you have got to convince them and coach them and nurture that. Maddi is getting that experience now back in the middle, so she is going to be great.”