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Hancock's commitment pays off

by Tony Webeck, NRL.com

Steph Hancock Jillaroos 2017 WRLWC

When your alarm goes off at 3.45am so  you can drag yourself out of bed in Brisbane's west in the middle of winter to complete a swim session in the closest body of water that will accommodate you, you've got to know you want it.

When you pick your children up from school after an eight-hour shift and take them to the nearest park so that you can run and run and run while they have fun on the swings nearby, you've got to know that the sacrifices you are making will bring enough joy that the pain can one day be forgotten.

As one of the most decorated Jillaroos to ever represent her country, Queensland veteran Steph Hancock has gone to hell and back in 2017 so she could simply go out on her terms and not be overtaken by the time that chases all athletes as they age.

Having missed the NRL Auckland Nines, battled through an All Stars game in 40-degree heat in Newcastle with troublesome knees, missed the mid-year Test against the Kiwi Ferns and then suffered just the second defeat at the hands of New South Wales in her distinguished career, Hancock looked at the Women's Rugby League World Cup in November and wondered whether it was a bridge too far.

"Missing out on the May Test and playing State of Origin and getting whipped again by NSW; I had to have a long hard think about whether I should just give it away," Hancock told NRL.com.

"I didn't want people saying, 'Come on, your day is done.'

"There were some mental hurdles that's for sure, there was no doubt about that.

"I just rang Dad (former Queensland and Australia representative Rohan Hancock) and he said, 'If you want to do it, do it and if you don't then you've done what you've done and you need to be happy with that.'

"But he knew I still had the fire burning in my belly and basically said, 'Off you go then.'

"He said all the right things and so did Mum. I'm just lucky I've got supportive parents."

Hancock's commitment to earning her place in the World Cup squad that will be her last appearance in the green and gold got its validation when she was named players' player in the historic clash with the PNG Orchids in Papua New Guinea in September.

Then on Thursday she was named alongside Ruan Sims and Renae Kunst as co-captains for the Jillaroos' World Cup campaign that, given where she has come from and what it represents, ranks among her greatest achievements in the game.

"This means more to me than anything ever has. I've had to work my butt off to get into this one," said Hancock, along with Kunst the only survivors from the 2008 World Cup team.

"I've had to really work hard to get to where I am now.

"Fitness-wise I had no strength in my knee and that plays with your head too. When you're injured you're worried about getting tackled or trying to push off the ground to take off.

"So I got into shape, went and played PNG and probably played one of the best games of footy I've played in the last decade.

"I had certain people say to me that I was back, so for that to happen and to get players' player was a massive thing for me.

"To be voted players' player by your peers and for the guys to have the faith in me and recognise all the hard work paid off means everything.

"It's just great to be back to be honest."

*This first appeared on NRL.com