Gelled Jillaroos ready to make amends
The Jillaroos have had plenty of chance to bond since going down to the Kiwi Ferns 2-1 in an enthralling three-match series at the Auckland Nines and are ready to make amends for a series of recent tight losses to the Ferns.
The women's games were one of the highlights of the recent Auckland Nines weekend, with the Jillaroos narrowly losing the three match series 2-1 after also being pipped in a thriller at a curtain raiser during last year's Four Nations.
Jillaroos star Kezie Apps, who was player of the match against the Indigenous All Stars over the All Stars weekend in the pre-season, told NRL.com the squad has bonded and gelled a lot since those losses.
"We've all reflected on those games and knew we could do a lot better. This camp we've gelled a lot better and we've had the All Stars game and camp now and time to work on the things we didn't do so well at the Nines," Apps said.
"Since getting that exposure from the Nines, most people said that's the first time they've seen the women play and they were so surprised on the shots and the skill and everything like that.
"That exposure was great and leading up to this game also so hopefully more people will come down to watch us play to see those big hits and those plays."
The four debutants joining the Jillaroos from the Indigenous All Stars side – Indigneous skipper Tallisha Harden, Latoya Billy, Mahalia Murphy and Casey Karklis – have all fitted in well, according to Apps.
"Yeah we've got a few new girls from the Indigenous side, they've fitted in really well and we've all gelled together so I can't wait to play alongside them," she said.
The weekend's matches will pay tribute to the Anzacs 100 years after the Gallipoli landing, with the mens and womens teams involved at a lunch on Wednesday at which it was announced $1 from every ticket sold for Friday's Test would be donated to the RSL in Australia and the RSA in New Zealand.
"It's been great, this whole week has been fantastic – it's such a big honour to not only represent Australia but the Anzacs too," Apps said.
Former Special Forces Commando Damien Thomlinson also spoke at the lunch, sharing the powerful story of how he lost his legs when his vehicle drove over an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.
"It was so moving, I was getting so emotional about it," Apps said of Thomlinson's speech, which focused on the importance of giving your all for your teammates – an act which saved his life.
"It reminded me what this week's all about and gave me goosebumps. On Friday night we'll be with our teammates and side by side [and paying tribute], it's a huge rush.
"Especially when he was talking about side by side and with your mate, you'd do anything for your mate, take the extra step, all the one percenters, everything like that."
The Jillaroos play the Kiwi Ferns as the curtain-raiser to the Australia-New Zealand Test at Suncorp Stadium on Friday, May 1. Tickets here.