Hancock: Women's game can't go backwards
Disappointed Jillaroos captain Steph Hancock may have lost the women's Downer NRL Auckland Nines Test series but she certainly won a ball girl's heart by giving the youngster her runner's up medal afterwards.
As shattered as she was by the 21-7 series decider loss to the Kiwi Ferns, she was grateful to be once again part of the Nines tournament – something she wouldn't have dreamed of when she first started playing in 2003.
Drawing comparisons between the progression of the women's game and the young ball girl, Hancock was pleased to do her bit for female rugby league and said it has to remain moving forward.
"I love this game so much and I never want to give it away but unfortunately my day will come. It's good to see the NRL look after these girls because it never actually happened when I first started," Hancock told NRL.com.
"It can only get bigger and better. It can't go backwards. It's been amazing the support we have been getting. Even from the Kiwis, just walking down the streets of Auckland and the amount of people who know who we are, it's amazing.
"In Australia we have heaps of supporters and we wear this jumper with a lot of pride."
"[When it comes to the young girl] it has 'ball person' on the back of their shirts now, and not ball boy [like last year]. So the more females who get to participate in this game the better it is. If it's made her day then that makes me happy."
Overall Hancock was pleased to see her young teammates ride the wave of excitement that the Auckland Nines brings.
"For the new girls with it being their first time at the Nines in front of this kind of crowd is an experience they will never forget," Hancock said.
"Mate, I've been very fortunate. I've played with a lot of girls who never were able to come over to Auckland and take part. It's a lifelong memory for us girls."
After winning the first match 11-4, Australia couldn't get the job done in the two games that followed in the series. It's something Hancock could find a funny side of though following the side's breakfast with interim NRL CEO John Grant on Sunday morning.
"[Grant] told us if we do happen to lose [the second match] then it will at least make the third game interesting," Hancock said.
"Unfortunately the third game didn't go our way but obviously the Kiwis played better on the day, it happens."