MORE than a decade after making her international debut – Queenslander Steph Hancock received the ultimate honour this week; being named captain of the Australian Jillaroos team.
Taking over from champion halfback Karyn Murphy in the role – Hancock has big shoes to fill, but is already looked up to by other players as a leader.
“I’m stoked, I don’t know the right word to describe it,” Hancock said of her appointment.
“I think that one of the biggest things is taking over from Murph, who was (a great leader) on and off the field.
“People have said to me that we are different types of leaders ... and Murph is one of my best mates and said she will help me out.
“But nothing has changed, I will keep doing what I am doing.”
One of the first people the police officer called once she was told the news was dad Rohan Hancock, a member of the inaugural Queensland State of Origin team in 1980 and Australian Kangaroos representative.
Crediting him as her “greatest footballing influence”; Big Ro was understandably proud of his daughter’s achievements.
Now playing club football with Souths Logan, Hancock debuted for Australia in 2003 and has been a mainstay of the team ever since and was part of the Jillaroos team that triumphed in the Rugby League World Cup last year.
This weekend’s rematch against the Kiwi Ferns will be the first time the two sides have met since the Jillaroos broke New Zealand’s 13-year stranglehold on women’s international rugby league silverware and Hancock is ready for the challenge.
“It will be one of the toughest games,” Hancock said from the Jillaroos camp. “It will be full on.
“We are missing key players from last year like Murph (Murphy), Nat (Dwyer) and Tahnee (Norris), but we will be okay.”
With a lot of experience gone from the side – there are a number of new faces in the team, including Queenslanders Annette Brander and Brittany Breayley – who are bringing plenty of enthusiasm to the side.
“The seniors players have been trying to settle them down (since camp started); they are that excited,” Hancock said.
Brad Donald is the coach of the Queensland Women’s team who won their 16th Interstate Challenge in a row and has seen firsthand the impact Hancock has on her fellow players.
“Steph is an extremely determined player who always leads by example on the field,” Donald said.
“I have seen her turn many club, Division and Interstate games by leading from the front and the other players always follow.
“She is a great leader off the field too and although quiet about her business, when she talks, the players respond.
“She has worked extremely hard off the field in the lead-up to this game so her determination, sacrifice, respect from the other players and experience have all combined to make her the perfect choice to lead the team on Sunday.”