Warriors Sarina Clark and Hilda Mariu.

Feeling the pinch physically after just two trips to Sydney, Sarina Clark struggles to comprehend how recently retired Warriors workhorse Simon Mannering clocked up 301 NRL matches given the constant trans-Tasman hopping.

We're pretty sure the feeling would be mutual given Clark's own extraordinary journey to make the inaugural Holden Women's Premiership.

"I never pictured myself playing the NRL so soon after having my baby," the 36-year-old Kiwi Ferns fullback turned Warriors centre said after welcoming her third son, Johnson, to the world in April.

Yes, that's five short months ago. It suddenly makes a big burly Telstra Premiership forward soldiering up with a niggling calf strain or the like not seem such a big deal anymore.

"I didn't think I'd be physically capable of returning so early so I'm just taking it one game at a time."

After back-to-back trips to ANZ Stadium in the past fortnight, the first after an unscheduled diversion via Brisbane, one game at a time is enough. Clark is not sure whether jet lag, a general lack of sleep or a "baby who has a lot of energy as well" is to blame for her current malaise and agrees it's probably a little bit of all of the above.

What she is certain about is that the travel makes an already physical Holden Women's Premiership "tough work" – and that she is loving every single tiring minute of it.

"There are girls I've never played against but they're bloody good. This shows there's a lot of depth out there and that's exciting to see. I think women's rugby league is in great hands. I'm loving it."

So much so, she says it's a case of never say never when it comes to a return to the Kiwi Ferns jumper for October's Test against the Jillaroos in Auckland.

The Mt Smart Stadium international is a much-anticipated replay of the 2017 World Cup final, the culmination of a tournament Clark missed due to her pregnancy. She hasn't discussed adding to her 10 seasons in the black jersey with new Kiwi Ferns coach Kelvin Wright but hasn't ruled it out either.

"I'm not sure. At this stage I'm really focused on the NRL but if I do play well enough... maybe."

Clark played well enough in last Saturday's 22-10 loss to St George Illawarra to be the only Warriors player selected in NRL.com's Team of the Week, a late try, 14 carries for 128 metres – including 35 post-contact metres – and four tackle busts a beacon in the losing effort.

Warriors fans needn't fret about Clark or her Warriors teammates being up for Friday night's clash against the table-topping Brisbane Broncos either, despite the short turnaround after the Dragons loss or a third successive trans-Tasman hop to Melbourne.

The Warriors must win to reach the NRL's inaugural women's grand final otherwise the winner of Saturday's Roosters-Dragons match at Allianz Stadium will earn that coveted right.

Clark is confident the Auckland club can rebound from the four tries to two loss to the Dragons but only if they continue to front up defensively and offer a little "polish" on attack after scoring just 10 points in each of their first two matches.

Warriors centre Sarina Clark.
Warriors centre Sarina Clark. ©Robb Cox/NRL Photos

"We analysed the video on Monday night and I thought we'd played quite badly against the St George but looking back we created enough opportunities," Clark said.

"The Dragons made a couple of try-saving tackles, we had a couple of tries disallowed [for failing to ground the ball over the line], so yeah...we've got to make sure we nail them on the head this weekend because it is going to be tough.

"The Broncos are looking very good and are favourites now. But the girls have been preparing very well, they know a lot of their [Brisbane's] girls so hopefully that's a little advantage.

"We've just got to stay in the grind in those pressure situations. It's something we didn't do so well against the Dragons but it really depends on how we go in those key moments, keep in it and make good decisions under pressure because I think it is an evenly spread competition. It's really on the day."

 

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