The Jillaroos have landed in Auckland ahead of their three-match series against the Kiwi Ferns at the 2015 Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines starting on Saturday at Eden Park.
The two sides last faced each other just two months ago at WIN Stadium, Wollongong in the Four Nations curtain raiser. But there will be something very different about their appearance in Auckland.
Not only will this be the first time they’ve played the nine-a-side format of the game but the tournament will give the Jillaroos the chance to run out in front of a packed Eden Park with live television coverage on Sky Sports in New Zealand.
Arriving in Auckland on Friday after a short training camp in Sydney, Jillaroos leader Stephanie Hancock spoke excitedly at the prospect ahead of them.
"As captain it will be a privilege to lead the Jillaroos on to Eden Park in front of such a big crowd," Hancock said.
"What an experience for the girls!
"I know they are all excited and we are all grateful to the organisers of the Auckland Nines and the NRL for giving us this opportunity."
Jillaroos youngster Kezie Apps said being a part of this year’s tournament means so much to the team.
"I've been looking forward to this tournament for weeks now," she said.
"We have been given an amazing opportunity to play the Nines along with the men’s teams – but I have to say it is a little scary to think we are going to play in front of 40,000 people plus a television audience."
The series against the Ferns promises to be an exciting spectacle with the Jillaroos team focused on reversing their recent loss in Wollongong.
Guided by coach Steve Folkes, the Australian squad is a blend of youth and experience with many players from the 2013 World Cup winning squad playing this weekend. A two-day camp has provided the team with the opportunity to adjust to the Nines format and the squad is raring to go.
Following the Nines, the team will compete on the NRL All Stars program on the Gold Coast next month.
They will also play a Test match against the Kiwis as a curtain raiser to the Kangaroos V New Zealand Test at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium on May 1.
Jillaroos v Kiwi Ferns
NRL Auckland Nines match details
Game One: Saturday January 31, 4pm (NZ time)
Game Two: Sunday, February 1, 4.35pm (NZ)
Game Three: Sunday, February 1, 6.40pm (NZ)
Jillaroos Nines squad: Sam Hammond, Karina Brown, Jenni-Sue Hoepper, Annette Brander, Deanna Turner, Ali Brigginshaw, Maddie Studdon, Stephanie Hancock, Brittany Breayley, Heather Ballinger, Kezie Apps, Vanessa Foliaki, Ruan Sims, Julie Young, Kellye Hodges, Nikki Richards. Coach: Steve Folkes.