Jillaroos captain Ali Brigginshaw.

Ali Brigginshaw reckons the 2009 version of herself wouldn't have stood much of a chance against the modern-day female rugby league player.

Brigginshaw will notch up her 11th year in the green and gold jersey on Friday night at WIN Stadium and the Australian captain is the perfect example of what it takes to be a Jillaroo - from respecting the past to help creating the future by nurturing the next generation of female stars.

The star playmaker from Ipswich has been through highs and lows over the past decade from early days of struggle against juggernaut New Zealand sides to World Cup and interstate challenge triumphs.

Surviving the initiation

Former Jillaroos legend Karyn Murphy described Brigginshaw as a "chubby" little 18-year-old when she first came onto the rugby league scene after a promising junior career in touch football.

"She was our little grommet and we used to take great joy in bossing her around," Murphy told NRL.com. 

"A quiet, chubby, confident little thing who took a while to come out of her shell. But she could play and to see how far she's come and to share those experiences back then to now with us is good to see.

"She's been through a lot of the changes and transition periods but was always a great footballer.

"She's made it her own now and does a good job directing the team around."

Brigginshaw laughed at the chubby call.

This weekend could be my last Test match. That scares me so much to think it could be my last. No one is safe in this game

Jillaroos captain Ali Brigginshaw

"Yeah, and nervous, I was this little shy girl who would sit in the corner of a team room where there were players like Murph, Renae Kunst and Nat Dwyer," Brigginshaw said.

"But I don't get nervous anymore, not even before a game, I love it. I think if you train hard and do all the work then when you get in camp around new players who you've never met is the time to enjoy it.

"Back then I wasn't fit enough or training hard enough so I would always doubt myself on the field and it flowed off the field too.

"But when you train hard there's no doubts and we train hard, every session. We've actually got the right people showing us how to train.

"Back then it was run up and down the field, do a few sprints and away you go."

The schoolyard bully

Brigginshaw went back to her high school in Ipswich recently and was met by former teachers who remembered her as Ali the pain, rather than Ali the footballer.

Her most regrettable incident came when she was suspended as a teenager and given three days of detention for tackling a boy on the oval.

"His sister came and got me out of the classroom to send me to the office," she said.

"The teachers said to me it's good to see you're now behaving on the field.

"I was a naughty kid all through schooling. I got distracted all the time and wasn't good at learning.

"It's something I tell the younger kids now with my work at the Broncos when we go out to schools – respect their teacher and listen in at least maths and English – purely from my regrets of not doing that myself."

Her biggest fear

Brigginshaw earns high praise for nearly every game she plays - it's rare she has an off day.

She's among the first players picked in any side – from club to representative teams – and has plenty of accomplishments to her name.

So, what's the fear?

"It scares the hell out of me that there are so many kids coming through that what's to say that someone doesn't just come through the halves in the next 12 months and I'm gone?" she says.

"This weekend could be my last Test match. That scares me so much to think it could be my last. Like no one is safe in this game and that's why I work hard on everything, I always train to be better.

"It's just a new level of confidence from players these days, they're athletes who have played all their life.

"The body figures on them and speed – they're a new athlete. They can come in and are strong already. We just work on their ability.

"It was Shakiah Tungai's first Australian jersey last weekend and with her first touch she puts in a grubber for a try – like who does that?

"Confidence is key and if you're pulling on a Jillaroos jersey you deserve to be here."

Happy wife, happy life

Brigginshaw's partner Kate has two children and only in the past 18 months has it allowed Ali to broaden her day-to-day life of responsibilities. 

But the increase in games on the women's rugby league calendar in the last year has also coincided with further time being spent away from home.

"When people complain that their coffee got cold because they were making their kids breakfast, I can actually relate to that now," she laughed.

"I reheat my coffee three or four times before I finish it these days. But it's all worth it. You go home and they're excited to see you, wondering where you've been because they've seen you on TV.

"The kids don't want fancy things they just want attention – playing dolls or drawing, whatever it is, that keeps me busy.

 
 
 
 
 
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"That gives a new excitement to my life and Kate is very supportive and always waiting for me to get home.

"That also makes it sad because it's different when you're in camp and stay in five-star resorts with buffets and service and she's at home cooking and looking after two kids.

"I can definitely relate to the men when they talk about sacrifices their partners and wives make. It's hard being away from mum and dad too because they're not used to me being so busy."

Confidence is key and if you're pulling on a Jillaroos jersey you deserve to be here

Jillaroos captain Ali Brigginshaw

'Catch us' - Kiwi Ferns rivalry re-ignites

Brigginshaw has been around long enough to know Australia's recent record against the Kiwi Ferns hasn't always been as smooth sailing.

"When I made my debut in 2009 the girls had just been beaten in the World Cup and it was a smashing," Brigginshaw said.

"So I didn't need to know much about the past but just that we were the underdogs.

"NZ basically won everything until it all changed in 2013 when we won the World Cup.

"Now it's like we're the standard, you've got to catch us. The Kiwi Ferns have got to be doing more to keep up."

Kiwi Ferns centre Jules Newman believed the Jillaroos were cocky in the World Cup 9s final – the Jillaroos' first loss in any format in three years.

Brigginshaw isn't one to take a backward step and knows every team on the international scene is hunting them.

"Yes, they won on the weekend but I do believe we are the better side," she said.

"There's definitely a rivalry there towards, whether it's seen on the field or not, because there's a thing where it's like the Jillaroos get this and that.

"I don't know what it's like in New Zealand with their support but are there past players knocking on the door wanting to help out? We've got some of the best past players trying to forge the way and get things for us.

"We always talk about the past and who was knocking down the walls back then.

"I think the coaching staff are doing the right thing with the people and players that are here."

 

Be there live at WIN Stadium for the Test Match Double Header. Visit nrl.com/tickets to purchase tickets.