The Women’s Indigenous All Stars will face-off against the Women’s All Stars this Saturday afternoon at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, the sixth annual exhibition match.
All Stars captain Steph Hancock is predicting an absolute spectacle.
“I’m telling you, it’s going to be one of the best games of women’s footy that is going to happen. We haven’t seen a good game between the Australian girls for a very long time,” Hancock said.
Hancock, current Jillaroos captain and women’s rugby league stalwart, has represented Australia since 2003 and says league in her blood.
“My Dad (Rowan Hancock) played in the first State of Origin in 1980. He played with Mal (Maninga) and Wally (Lewis), Arthur Beetson and all those old boys.
“I grew up watching old video tapes and then my brother got involved, Dad coached the U7’s and I would have a run-around and it all started from there,” she said.
And while Hancock, at age 34, says she’s “on her way out” is thrilled at how the game has progressed since she started. “It’s exciting to see how many young, flash, quick, talented girls are coming through in the All Stars and Indigenous All Stars.
The match on Saturday will not only be an exhibition, but a selection for the Jillaroos’ ANZAC Test in May.
“If I was a selector I would dead-set be in a big panic; they’re going to have a massive job at trying to pick a test side,” Hancock said.
Hancock says recent performances, such as at the Auckland Nines, will account for nothing.
“No-one is guaranteed for any green and gold jumper that’s for sure.”
And while the All Stars Team is mainly made up Jillaroos, she’s certain the talent is evenly spread.
“If you saw the quality of the Indigenous All Stars team, I honestly think we’re on par.
“If I was the Indigenous All Star girls I’d be rubbing my hands together thinking that we’ve got a red-hot crack at the Jillaroos and the All Stars.”
“They’ve got at least five girls who have worn the green and gold jumper before, they’ve got Telisha (Harden), Latoya Billy, and Casey (Karklis) who made her Jillaroos debut last year who’s just a little freak,” Hancock said.
The Indigenous All Stars team, captained by Jillaroo Tellisha Harden says beating the Women’s All Stars team is a win that won’t come easy, but eyes a better chance than last year.
“Last year we were competitive but we didn’t have the cohesion that came with training regularly. We had new girls in the team but we now have girls coming back for their second or third year and we’re looking a lot stronger which is really positive. Having an extra camp a couple of weeks ago really gave us a platform to build on,” Harden said.
For the first time this year, the NRL supported a 3-day team camp for the Indigenous side to help prepare for this weekend’s match, and to their advantage given national selection is up for grabs.
“The young girls are putting their hand up for Jillaroos selection. We’ve got a lot of (Indigenous) girls who aren’t confident in trialing for state teams or don’t have access to club teams so this is a good pathway for them to showcase their skills whilst playing against the Australian team.
“We’ve had a couple of girls who have been selected in the Australian team last year who wouldn’t have had the opportunity if the All-Stars concept wasn’t around, so it’s a really good pathway, especially for the ones who come from Torres Strait or out on Stradbroke Island,” Harden said.
Harden, 22, who’s from Torres Strait Island herself, is looking forward to the contest this Saturday against the All Stars, and with the help of role model, Greg Inglis.
“Usually we get so caught up in the playing side of things that we forget to enjoy the week. GI (Greg Inglis) had a bit of a chat to us and said that we need to strip the game back and enjoy the week for what it’s worth. He’s been encouraging us to play our natural football game but to provide structure around the core skills that we need to be competitive,” Harden said.
“He comes in and out, he’s a great ambassador for the women’s concept over the last couple of years for the All Star girls and the Indigenous All Star girls and a lot of the young ones look up to him.”
The game is on at 4.25pm, and broadcast live from Suncorp Stadium on NITV.