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Jamie Soward never doubted that Niall Williams-Guthrie would deliver on the paddock against Fiji Bulikula but it was her leadership off the field that had the new Fetu Samoa coach in awe of the dual international.

After a decorated Rugby Sevens career with the Black Ferns, Williams-Guthrie made the move to the NRLW in 2023, helping the Gold Coast Titans to their maiden grand final appearance.

Just a fortnight after the disappointment of a 24-18 loss to the Knights in the decider, the 35-year-old had the high of leading Fetu Samoa in their Pacific Championships opener in Port Moresby on Sunday.

Not only did Williams-Guthrie chalk up 166 run metres, two try assists and a victory, but she earned high praise from her coach for the way she carried herself throughout their time in camp.

Pacific Championships Week 1 Wrap

“I’ve been involved in rugby league for a long time and I have played with and I have coached some amazing leaders,” Soward told media after Samoa’s 26-12 win.

“My first conversation with Niall was ‘I wasn’t coach and she wasn’t captain’, we were going to be a partnership and we made some promises to each other that we were going to achieve this week.

“I knew she was going to play great but I wanted her to be the leader of the camp. I know how good she is but I am more proud of her leadership away from the field and the connection she has formed within the team.

Nu'uausala has a big game

“Class players are great, they just put the boots on and they’re competitors and she’s the ultimate competitor, but to see her lead throughout the week and for me to be able to take a back seat and learn more about the culture myself was really cool.

“That’s what I’m most proud of her for.”

Williams-Guthrie is eligible for Samoa through her paternal grandmother, Nellie Crichton, and told before the match that "something in my heart just told me it was the right decision" when the opportunity arose to represent the island nation.

After falling behind early to a Vitalina Naikore try, Samoa worked their way into the match and embraced the atmosphere at Santos National Football Stadium.

"We knew there was going to be moments where it was going to be tough," Williams-Guthrie said post-match.

"It's a credit to the heart shown by the girls who just wanted it more.

Fetu Samoa perform Siva Tau

"The crowd was one of the things we were most excited about coming here to play and what I love most is that they cheer for everybody.

"You have to be on your A-game because if the opposition scores you are going to cheer for them and if we score you are going to cheer for us.

"The girls got a great taste of culture and being immersed in it this week."

Acknowledgement of Country

Gold Coast Titans proudly acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we are situated, the Kombumerri families of the Yugambeh Language Region. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging, and recognise their continuing connections to the lands, waters and their extended communities throughout South East Queensland.