The Women's National Championships kicks off on Friday with the defending champions looking to go back-to-back.https://t.co/aaUhFj9bHC
— RUGBYcomau (@rugbycomau) June 22, 2016
There are eight teams in two pools and the action kicks off bright and early Friday morning when the reigning champions Sydney take on the team from the Australian Defence Force.
Other teams participating come from right across the country with WA, SA and Victoria joining the teams from the more traditional heartlands of rugby in QLD, NSW Country and the ACT.
Victoria finished fifth in 2015 winning the Plate Final over NSW Country, but team captain Ashley Marsters believes this year they have what it takes to go further and the recent pre-Nationals hit out in Wagga Wagga against NSW Country and the ACT, gave them good insight for this weekend.
“It was the first time we’d had practice matches so we could have a feel of playing together and working with each-other, adjusting to how we each play, so that when we come to Nationals this weekend, we’re prepared. And it’s good because we had a lot of girls that debuted in Wagga so now they’ve had a taste of what’s to come,” she said.
“We’ve done all the hard work in training, so it’s time to get into action and have some fun on the field.”
Marsters’ said she felt the team combinations all worked well in Wagga and her vice captain, Silei Poluleuligaga agrees, although believes the opposition will be tough this weekend with everyone well aware that the stakes are high with Wallaroo selection in the offing.
“I think Sydney obviously is going to be tough – especially as the World Cup is next year - everyone is going to be fighting for a spot in the Wallaroos side. So there’s going to be a lot of surprises and hopefully we’re one of them.
“ACT was the surprise packet last year – but you never know. WA look strong and also ACT again - I think they’re going to do well in this tournament,” said Poluleuligaga.
For Victoria though it is a strong mix of experience and youth. Both Marsters and Poluleuligaga have been in the Wallaroos ranks and know what it takes to follow the path to get to a World Cup. Melinda Kosanic is the relative newcomer in the team, having only played for two years, but already has risen to the role of vice-captain along with Poluleuligaga.
Kosanic believes Victoria's performance in the recent Southern States tournament demonstrates they have as good a chance as any this weekend, even though half of the 24-member Victorian team will be on debut.
“I think it was really good to get the girls playing together. It was good to see where each girl’s strengths and weaknesses were and where that fits in the team. I think we’ve become a lot stronger now, working on and off the field,” she said.
“I think we’re all going to just get out there and work as hard as we can – our motto is to never give up and to go that extra mile.”
As the Victorians pointed out, last year’s finalists will be hard to beat with Sydney looking to retain the title.
The ACT are out to claim the title they came so close to securing in 2015 to the surprise of many.
ACT captain Louise Burrows – herself aiming for a fourth World Cup - said she was pleased with the recent game time the team got in Wagga and the Brumbies squad has been working very hard toward this weekend.
“We made the final and fell to Sydney in 2015 and this showed some of our younger players of the standards required to compete at the Nationals.”
Among the ACT’s crop of young talent is teenager Millie Boyle who is dreaming of the possibility of a Wallaroo debut.
Whichever team emerges victorious in Sydney this weekend, the less immediate but perhaps more important outcome will be what Wallaroos’ coach Paul Verrell takes away from the three days of action.
His task will be hard as there is no doubt the talent on display will be of a very high calibre, both experienced and aspiring. Players will perform at their best to press for the ultimate prize of Wallaroos selection, especially as the the national team's future looks brighter with international tests just months away and a possible northern hemisphere tour on the horizon.
For those in Sydney this weekend, it would be well worth a look at the future of Australian rugby.
2016 Women’s National XVs Championship:
Where: St Ignatius College, Riverview
MATCH DAY 1 – FRIDAY 24 JUNE
8.30am Sydney v ADFRU
9.30am WA v Victoria
10.30am, QLD v NSW Country
11.30am, ACT v SA
1.00pm, Sydney v Victoria
2.00pm, WA v ADFRU
3.00pm, ACT v NSW Country
4.00pm, QLD v SA
MATCH DAY 2 – SATURDAY 25 JUNE
9.30am, Victoria v ADFRU
11.00am, NSW Country v SA
12.30pm, Sydney v WA
2.00pm, ACT v QLD
MATCH DAY 3 – SUNDAY 26 JUNE
8.30am, 4th Pool A v 4th Pool B
9.45am, 3rd Pool A v 3rd Pool B
11.00am, 2nd Pool A v 2nd Pool B
12.15pm, 1st Pool A v 1st Pool B