Tiana Penitani on Dragons NRLW rescue mission, with World Cup on horizon

Tiana Penitani scored St George Illawarra's only try against the Roosters. Pictures: Keegan Carroll/NRL Imagery
Tiana Penitani scored St George Illawarra's only try against the Roosters. Pictures: Keegan Carroll/NRL Imagery

Dual international Tiana Penitani has closed the door on the Olympics, declaring the major goals of rescuing St George Illawarra's season and playing at next year's Rugby League World Cup.

Penitani was in line to play at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics - where Australia won gold - alongside Emma Tonegato, who played league for Helensburgh, and Bulli's Nicole Beck.

But a second ACL tear at the age of 19 denied her the opportunity and it led to her walking away from the seven-a-side game.

Penitani is now a key weapon in the Dragons backline, scoring their only try in Saturday's 18-4 loss to the Roosters.

In the three-round and grand final series during the NRL finals, it means St George Illawarra are already in must-win territory against the Broncos at Bankwest Stadium on Saturday.

"There's plenty of belief in the this squad," Penitani said.

"There are superstars across the field, so it was a tough loss, but we were in the same position last year and made the grand final.

"We know we can turn things around."

With the Tokyo Games delayed until next year, Penitani said her commitment to rugby league stretched beyond the NRLW season and is determined to be part of a Australia's campaign at the RLWC in England next year.

"I'm really happy," she said. "The 2021 World Cup is definitely a goal, I'm not looking at the Olympics.

"My dream was always to make the Olympics, but when I was injured and didn't make the squad, I was in a head space where I needed a break.

"But I'm content where I'm at with the Dragons and I want to play for NSW and Australia, there's a lot to look ahead to."

A centre and fullback, Penitani has been again named on the wing for Saturday's clash to the Broncos, who beat them in last year's decider.

She was on the end of a brilliant cut-out pass from fullback Sam Bremner, but believes it was just a glimpse of what the Dragons attack has to offer.

"The way it's been with the Covid restrictions, we haven't had a lot of time to plan and develop anything," she said.

"I've played with Isabelle (Kelly) in the Nines, but not in 13-a-side, so we'll only improve in the next weeks.

"Centre is my favourite position, but we've trained in a number of positions, so we can adapt if there's ever an injury on the field."

Penitani remained upbeat about an expansion of the NRLW competition, given one loss means they have to beat the Broncos and Warriors to have any hope of being there on grand final day.

"It's cut-throat now," she said.

"But hopefully in the future we'll have more games and keep developing the depth to expand."

This story Penitani on Dragons NRLW rescue mission, with World Cup on horizon first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.