Twenty-five current and emerging Harvey Norman Australian Jillaroos players gathered on the Gold Coast this past weekend for an intensive three-day training camp which was held under the watchful eyes of current Jillaroos coach Steve Folkes and new appointment to the team, assistant coach Adrian Vowles.
The national women’s side has had an impressive 2015, with highlights including a successful first-time campaign at the Dick Smith Auckland Nines and an ANZAC Test Match win against the New Zealand Kiwi Ferns.
Long-standing partner of the NRL, Harvey Norman also signed on as the first ever major sponsor of the national women’s side and Jillaroos and Queensland five-eighth Jenni-Sue Hoepper became the inaugural Dally M Female Player of the year at a glittering awards ceremony during the Telstra Premiership Grand Final week.
Next year is shaping as just as big, with a selection of current, emerging and new players coming together over the weekend to prepare for the national season ahead.
Three matches are scheduled for the Dick Smith Auckland Nines at the start of next year, along with a Test Match and title to defend against the Kiwis, scheduled for the Friday during the 2016 Mid-Season Representative Weekend.
Outside of this, squad members will participate in various competitions at the elite level, including the Affiliate State Championships and the Queensland v NSW Interstate Challenge for the Nellie Doherty Cup.
Coach Folkes said the team had soared to new heights this year and welcomed the addition of new faces into the training camp on the Gold Coast, including the depth and experience of former Australian and Queensland representative Vowles.
“The team has consistently worked together and supported one another on and off the field and the results speak for themselves,” Folkes said.
“We have a very strong Jillaroos following in Australia, with female participation numbers the fastest growing category of any in our game, up 26% alone this year.
“We also get an enormous amount of support for the girls when they play.
“The fact that we have 25 squad members at this camp, with16 travelling to New Zealand for the Nines tournament is testament to the high level of competitiveness that exists in Australian female rugby league and it’s exciting to be a part of.”
Jillaroos and Queensland captain Steph Hancock was confident the team could capitalise on such a strong year and continue to grow the strength and awareness of women’s rugby league at the highest level in Australia.
“We’re a committed bunch of girls and we play tough rugby league whenever we take to the field,” Hancock said.
“It’s a thrill and an honour to have captained this side this year, particularly at a time when female sport in Australia is becoming more and more prevalent.”
Harvey Norman Chief Executive Officer and long-time supporter of rugby league, Katie Page, joined the squad as part of the camp and looked forward to watching the strength of the league and Jillaroos continue to develop.
“The Harvey Norman Jillaroos deserve to be household names – these women are just the most incredible athletes and as we have seen throughout this year, they are world-class.
“The Jillaroos victory over the Kiwi Ferns in May was the start of this watershed year for women in Australian sport. I still vividly remember Mahalia Murphy's hat-trick.
"Watching them come together in camp and in training, you get the sense that we have just begun to see what these exceptional women have in store for us and the game.”
The Harvey Norman Australian Jillaroos camp squad:
1. Allana Ferguson – new to squad from NSW
2. Ali Brigginshaw Queensland
3. Annete Brander Queensland
4. Brittany Breayley Queensland
5. Casey Karklis Queensland
6. Charmayne Nathan – new to squad from NSW
7. Chelsea Baker – new to squad from Queensland
8. Corban McGregor – new to squad from NSW
9. Heather Ballinger Queensland
10. Ilaisaane Finau – new to squad from WA
11. Jenni-Sue Hoepper - Dally M Female Player of the Year Queensland
12. Karina Brown – Dally M Finalist Queensland
13. Kezie Apps
14. Kody House – new to squad from Queensland
15. Latoya Billy Queensland
16. Maddie Studdon
17. Renae Kunst Queensland
19. Ruan Sims
20. Sam Hammond
21. Shanice Parker – new to squad from WA
22. Steph Hancock – Jillaroos Captain & Dally M Finalist
23. Tallisha Harden Queensland
24. Vanessa Foliaki
25. Sasha Mahuika – new to squad from Queensland
Key fixtures for the Harvey Norman Australian Jillaroos in 2016:
• NRL Auckland Nines: February 6 and 7, 2016 – three Matches v New Zealand Kiwi Ferns
• Mid-Season Test Match: Friday, May 6, 2016 v New Zealand Kiwi Ferns
(NOTE: there may be additional players that are eligible for selection next year)