TWO members of the Burleigh Bears women’s team will be on show when the Australian Jillaroos take on the Kiwi Ferns in tonight’s Test match at Suncorp Stadium.
Karina Brown and Tallisha Harden both got the nod to represent the Jillaroos in the ANZAC test match that will be streamed live on www.NRL.com.au from 5.20pm.
Since debuting in 2013, Brown has cemented her place in the national side and tonight will be her fourth Test appearance.
She was a part of the 2013 World Cup winning campaign and also took part in the Auckland 9s series against New Zealand at the start of the year.
While the Aussies are world champions, the Kiwis have been a dominant force in the women’s game for a long time and defeated the Jillaroos in their most recent test match in 2014.
“I think we’re evenly matched teams, but I don’t think we’ve seen the best of the Jillaroos yet and hopefully we can show our best tomorrow night and prove that we’re the dominant team,” Brown said.
“It’s about execution and the 1% plays. New Zealand is the bigger team and everybody talks about the big hits they put on at the Auckland 9s, so let’s use that to our advantage.
“We’re really fast, fit and agile; let’s use that to our advantage with quick play-the-balls and by pushing up in support.
“When those New Zealand girls get tired, that’s our opportunity to strike. I think our fitness will definitely play a key role tomorrow night as will execution on the little 1 % plays.”
For Harden, who has previously represented Australia in the Rugby 7s and played for the Indigenous All Stars in 2014, this is her Jillaroos debut.
“I was definitely surprised. It wasn’t something I expected because I carried an injury into the first selection camp so I wasn’t too sure about my position within the team at that stage,” she said of her selection.
“I think I did enough at the Indigenous All Stars to get selected which was good. It was definitely a surprise, but I’m very excited about the opportunity to play.
“I think it’s going to be very physical. There will be more than a few big hits. We’re prepared for a big, strong and fast New Zealand team to come at us and it’s definitely going to be very physical around that contact area.
Harden will come off the bench for the Jillaroos and is hoping once she is injected into the contest she can link up with her Bears team-mate.
“I think my role is to provide a bit of impact in attack and direct a bit of traffic on that right edge,” she said.
“Hopefully Karina and I can combine with Jenny-Sue (Hoepper) and Kezie (Apps) on that right side and create a couple of tries.
“You never know, I guess it depends on conditions and how the game is going, but I definitely want to come on and make an impact whether that’s in attack or defence; I just want to do my part to contribute.”
One thing both Brown and Harden are excited about is the growth of the Jillaroos and women’s rugby league in general in recent years.
Since winning the World Cup in 2013 the Jillaroos are finally starting to garner the recognition and attention they deserve.
For years, Jillaroos players had to pay their own way to play Test matches and major tournaments, now for the first time the team has attracted a major sponsor and they have been working side-by-side with the Kangaroos in the build up to Friday’s ANZAC Test.
“I’m just really proud and excited that the NRL has been getting behind us a lot more since 2013,” Brown said.
“We’ve never had a sponsor. Ever. We won the world cup and had no sponsor. Even at the Auckland 9s playing on Fox Sports we had no sponsor. To finally get one is pretty awesome.
“It makes a big difference. For example, all of this week I’ve had a bad ankle, but I’ve had access to top quality physio every day.
“I got to go to the Kangaroos doctor and their physio for a second opinion; every option is available now, where we didn’t have those options before.
“It’s so simple, but it can be the difference between me playing and not playing. All of those little things make a difference and that’s because of the funding that we’re now getting.”
During the week the Jillaroos visited a schoolgirl’s competition on the Coast and Harden, who is also an NRL Community Ambassador, was impressed with the progression of young girls playing rugby league.
“It feels like from the interest we’ve gotten and the interest I’ve seen in the community that league is growing especially for women and young women,” she said.
“To see so many younger girls interested in playing league and interested in playing at a higher level was just awesome to see.
“There were so many girls that came up to us and asked how they could get involved and what more they can do when they leave school.
“It was really positive to see that the growth is reaching those community and school levels for women.”
Brown said the continued growth and exposure of the Jillaroos has been a driving force behind the increase in young girls playing rugby league.
“I think it really took off after the Auckland 9s. The fact that we got put on Fox Sports for the first time ever was a big deal,” she said.
“It’s good for the game. It’s one of the fastest growing sports in Australia and it’s due to that female participation and that can be attributed to the Jillaroos getting some coverage.
“You’ve got little girls now that want to grow up and be Jillaroos. That makes me pretty proud that I’m, I guess, paving the way a bit for little girls. It gives them something to strive for and shows that they too can play footy like the boys.”
Kick-off between the Jillaroos and Kiwi Ferns is at 5:20pm this Friday night and the game will be streamed live at NRL.com.
Brown and Harden both feature in Burleigh’s women’s team who compete in the Division 1 South East Queensland competition.
They will back-up for the Bears this Sunday afternoon at Pizzey Park when they will attempt to secure their third win on the trot against Carina.