The NSW Women’s rugby league side is drawing on inspiration from Laurie Daley’s Blues Origin team to end another era of Queensland dominance.
The Women’s Interstate Challenge has been a completely one-sided affair since its inception 15 years ago – and, just like the NSW Men’s side, the women believe 2014 is the year the Queenslanders’ streak ends.
The NSW Women’s side, coached by former St George Illawarra and Wests Tigers halfback Mathew Head, was presented their jerseys on Thursday night by drought-breaking Blues coach Daley and New South Wales back-rower Anthony Watmough. The side believes the gesture, in addition to speeches from both men, will help inspire their own side to victory.
“Just the fact the [NSW Origin] boys won, it gives us hope it’s achievable. We know with the hard work we’ve put in we can get there,” co-captain and front-rower Elianna Walton told NSWRL TV.
“Just having Laurie Daley and Anthony Watmough’s presence in the room, the girls were just in awe, excited, pumped and starting singing. The boys like that, just acknowledging us like that, as footballers, we’re just stoked to have them here.”
Fellow co-captain and fullback Sam Hammond was particularly thrilled to meet the coach of the Origin-winning NSW VB Blues.
“That was awesome. We didn’t know until today that [Daley] was coming and it just makes us feel special and appreciated for the hard efforts we’ve done to get to where we are now,” Hammond said.
“[Daley’s] speech was unreal, it’s really pumped us up and really inspired us. He just told us exactly what we needed to hear and I think the girls are all very excited by it.”
One player who doesn’t need any added motivation is Kezie Apps. The south coast-based back-rower has, for the past five weeks, travelled to Dundas in Sydney from her base in Bega on the New South Wales south coast. Apps completes the five-and-a-half-hour journey twice a week and has already covered a total of 8500 kilometres in preparation for Saturday’s clash.
Apps’ story is a remarkable one. She comes into the NSW Women’s side after less than a year of full-contact footy as an adult.
“This is my first year back, it’s my first year back playing footy since I was 11,” Apps, 23, said.
“Back home we have league tag, that was established in 2012, and since playing that, featuring the same rules except with tags it made me want to get back into the full contact.”
Apps developed a love of rugby league when the family of league legends delivered cattle to her Bega dairy farm.
“Nathan Hindmarsh was the player I followed – I backed the Eels. We actually purchased some cows off [the Hindmarsh family] when I was about 12 and I’ve gone for the Eels ever since,” Apps said.
“I grew up with [rugby league] all my life. My dad played it, my brothers played it, I played it when I was young and I wanted to play it again so giving it another go.”
Apps and her team-mates are just one game away from representing her country, with the Women’s Interstate Challenge a trial for selection in the Jillaroos’ end-of-year Four Nations campaign.
The Women’s Interstate Challenge kicks-off at 3.30pm at Leichhardt Oval in Sydney.
Tickets are $10 at the gate which includes entry into the VB NSW Cup clash between the Tigers and Bulldogs at 1.45pm as well as a Ron Massey Cup match between the Western Suburbs Magpies and Burwood North Ryde United at 11.45am.
All three games can be listened to on-line at www.steelesports.com.au