Women's teams suffer injury setbacks
The prospect of the Indigenous Women's team recording a maiden win have received a significant boost with the Women's All Stars team suffering a double injury blow ahead of their game at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.
The main curtain-raiser to the Indigenous All Stars clash with the World All Stars in front of an expected crowd of 40,000 fans, the Indigenous All Stars are yet to record a win in three previous meetings but have a far greater representation of Jillaroos representatives in 2016.
Also helping their cause is the late withdrawal from the Women's All Stars team of two members of the Jillaroos who played in the Downer NRL Auckland Nines on the weekend.
Five-eighth Allana Ferguson has succumbed to an ankle injury she also suffered in a pre-Christmas training camp while strong-running back-rower Kody House broke down in tears on Friday morning when she was ruled out with a hamstring strain.
Former All Star Courtney Lockwood has been called into the team to take Ferguson's place in the halves but team officials are not expected to be able to find a replacement for House at such short notice.
The Women's Indigenous team will be without inaugural Dally M Female Player of the Year Jenni-Sue Hoepper but coach Dean Widders believes the experience of girls playing at a higher level the past two years will hold them in good stead.
"I think this is our best chance. This is our best preparation and this is the fittest these girls have been," Widders told NRL.com.
"We've kept results on them, we've tagged them with programs and stuff like that and this is the best our program's worked. The results from 12 months ago and even 12 months before that are amazing so this is our best chance.
"The girls have stepped up but we've got to make it happen because these Jillaroos just keep getting better every year.
"We got five Indigenous girls in [the Jillaroos] last year and I'm looking at a few more there this year. There are a few that will definitely step up that could go in there."
Experienced Jillaroo Ruan Sims praised the unpredictable style of football that the Indigenous girls have brought into the national team in the past 12 months but said the loss of Hoepper was a significant one.
"That's a big loss because she controls the middle for them but there is such a wealth of talent in that team itself," Sims said.
"They're adding a little more depth and they bring a lot of footwork and a lot of speed and that unscripted play that we might not have been something that we had at the forefront of our game-plans previously.
"Now with 'Folkesy' (Jillaroos coach Steve Folkes) at the helm he gives us a structure and then gives us enough room to be able to run those off-the-cuff plays when we see whatever is in front of us and that's what those Indigenous girls bring. That little bit of unpredictability which is fantastic."
The Women's All Stars game will be shown live on NITV at 4.25pm