Jillaroos primed for trans-tasman showdown
Karyn Murphy has played at every World Cup since 2000 and believes that this year the Jillaroos have what it takes to defeat tournament favourites New Zealand and bring home the Women’s Rugby League World Cup Title.
Last night I caught up with the Jillaroos co-captain, who despite still needing to play a final round-robin match against the Kiwis, have secured a finals spot and are hungry to bring home the cup.
After already defeating England and France in their earlier matches, as the draw would have it, Murphy and the Jillaroos will take on New Zealand tonight before facing off again in the World Cup decider on Sunday.
In 2008 New Zealand rolled the Jillaroos side 34-0 and will be gunning for their fourth consecutive World Cup title, but Murphy believes the team has not only improved, but a new look Jillaroos squad has brought new opportunities and a renewed want to win.
Watch some of the highlights from England V Australia
“We haven’t played New Zealand since 2008 and haven’t had too many opportunities to see them play, but we have a new squad that is quick and strong and I think has what it takes to win.
We have a great mix of youth and experience and both are combining well which we have demonstrated in earlier matches against England and France. The younger players are bringing great enthusiasm to the older players, while the older players come with years of experience,” says Murphy.
One of the stand outs of the team has come in the likes of debutant, Samantha Hammond who has been referred to as the female equivalent of Billy Slater.
“She has a lot of speed, and like Billy Slater she is fulfilling that roll of fullback and popping up everywhere and all over the field which is evident in the amount of tries she has ran over so far this tournament.”
It is the ‘X-Factor’ of Hammond combined with the skill, leadership and drive of Murphy who has also been likened to league legend and former Australian Captain, Darryn Lockyer, that they hope will give them what it takes to bring home the World Cup for the first time.
While Australia boast the likes of Slater and Lockyer, New Zealand too have their threats, none more so than their Captain Honey Hireme who has been affectionately nicknamed ‘Honey Bill Williams’ who, like the league star has stifled oppositions with her offloading skills and try scoring ability.
Despite the obvious threat of New Zealand, Murphy and the squad appeared unfazed by the reported size, skill and power of the Kiwis and she remains confident that the strength of the forward pack and overall speed of the Jillaroos will prove the difference.
“Opening the tournament with a win first up against England on their home soil was a great boost in confidence for us and even the girls who have played before agree that it was physically one of the toughest matches we they have ever played so it was a great test for everyone.”
“The recovery has been great and we have had a few days between matches to rest up and are looking forward to playing New Zealand.”
In a real coupe for the Women in league, this is the first year that the NRL have financially supported the girls squad and Murphy believes that this too has spurred their hunger to win.
“I have never seen it before, from the send off at the airport right through to [NRL CEO] David Smith and Tim Sheens addressing the squad at an Australian function during the week.
“In previous years we have just got on the plane with no send off or no real knowledge of whether anyone even knew we had gone or what we were doing, so the support this year has been amazing and a real step forward for the sport.”
Murphy also paid tribute to their former coach Graham Murray who was forced to step aside due to health reasons with assistant coach Paul Davey taking over the reins.
“Muz is a great coach and has been with the squad for the last two years. He took the team to Samoa in 2011 so it was always going to be tough not having him here but with Paul also working closely with the squad it made it an easy transition”.
As for what this win would mean, well, the answer was simple – everything.
“For all of the girls that have stuck with Rugby League over the years it definitely hasn’t been for any other reason than their love for the game. Over the years we have lost a lot of great players to other sports, like Rugby, purely because of the opportunities available.
A win would be great opportunity to show that the efforts and support of the NRL who have been working hard to develop pathways throughout school and into the open level have been worth it. Hopefully we will see the sport grow more and more and we will get more participation and become more competitive.”
We will touch base with the Jillaroos again before their final showdown with New Zealand but you can follow their campaign and show your support on Twitter.
2013 Jillaroos Squad:
Head Coach - Paul Dyer.
Emma Young (Maitland, NSW)
Elianna Walton (Canley Heights, NSW)
Julie Young (Maitland, NSW)
Ruan Sims (Cronulla, NSW)
Jessica Palmer (Penrith, NSW)
Jo Barrett (Brighton, QLD)
Rebecca Young (Maitland, NSW)
Samantha Hammond (Helensburgh, NSW)
Emily Andrews (Helensburgh, NSW)
Alex Sulusi (Canley Heights, NSW)
Tegan Chandler (Helensburgh, NSW)
Emma Tonegato (Helensburgh, NSW)
Jenni-Sue Hoepper (Springfield QLD)
Deanna Turner (Mackay, QLD)
Heather Ballinger (Cairns, QLD)
Nat Dwyer (Augustine Hills, QLD)
Renae Kunst (West End, QLD)
Steph Hancock (Killarney, QLD)
Tahnee Norris (Robina, QLD) – Co-Captain
Carina Brown (QLD)
Karyn Murphy (West End, QLD) – Co-Captain
Ali Brigginshaw (Ripley, QLD)
Amber Saltner (Cherbourg, QLD)
Tarah Westera (Penrith, NSW)