Jillaroos and Ferns lead revolution
The 2013 World Cup wasn't just a big result for the Jillaroos, it was a pivotal moment for the women's game.
Women's rugby league has exploded in popularity ever since with the NRL Auckland Nines, new pathways created and more regular exposure bringing the evolution of the game into the mainstream.
The rise in status of the game has resulted in key sponsorship deals with Harvey Norman and Jet Star and when Todd Greenberg was appointed NRL CEO recently, one of the first people he called was Jillaroos captain Steph Hancock.
Jillaroos winger Karina Brown has been at the forefront of the evolution, having made her debut in the 2013 World Cup.
Her rise has mirrored that of the women's game and the classy finisher was one of four players nominated for the first ever Women's Dally M Player of the Year award in 2015.
"Since 2013, the women's game has gone from strength to strength, every opportunity we have been provided is just getting bigger and better. Our game has been showcased a lot through the NRL Auckland Nines and the Test matches we've been playing," Brown told NRL.com.
"The feedback has been enormous, we've been building this for 12 years and it is great the girls are getting the opportunities and the recognition they deserve. The NRL has been a big driving force behind us.
"We always talk about the past players and how hard it was for them just to put the boots on. They used to have to do sausage sizzles to raise money and stay in backpacker accommodation, we owe them so much.
"The opportunities the women's game is getting now is largely thanks to that group of girls, it's a very important part of our culture to remember that.
"It is good the young girls coming through understand where the game has come from."
Participation in the women's game saw a jump of more than 26 per cent last year, and the new pathways and competitions recently added in Sydney have officials excited that the growth can be replicated and expanded this season.
The Jillaroos see Friday's Test match against the Kiwi Ferns as another opportunity to strengthen not only their brand, but demonstrate the skills and strength of the women's game as a whole.
It will also be a key measuring stick as they prepare for next year's World Cup.
"It is important we take the chance with two hands and showcase who we are as people and as athletes," Brown said.
"At the NRL Auckland Nines we all sat around and talked about what it meant to wear the green and gold, it was so inspiring.
"I mean you look at Tahnee Norris who went to four World Cups and she is now our strength and conditioning coach. She means so much to this team. Just hearing her stories and everything she has done, you can't help but be inspired."
Brown missed the 2013 World Cup Final due to a concussion suffered in a group game against New Zealand, but it hasn't stopped her resolve.
"It was so special to be a part of the group, some of the girls had been at the previous three World Cups and never won, so to finally beat New Zealand in the final was so special just to be a part of that historic group," she said.
"We have built a really strong core of this team since the 2013 World Cup, and we have been getting a chance to play together more often, so the combinations are great. But the new faces certainly add a lot of enthusiasm as well."
There is no doubting the Jillaroos will need all the enthusiasm and skill at their disposal when they clash with the physical Kiwis on Friday.
Big defence and bigger hits have been a hallmark of their play, resulting in some massive tackles during the Nines going viral online and the Jillaroos know what is coming.
"We know we are going to get hit hard, but we'll get up, that's what we do," Brown said.
"There is a lot of familiar faces in the Kiwis side, there is no secret where their strength is and what their tactics will be.
"They are a big side and they'll smash through the middle of the field. We are ready for that. No matter how hard they hit us, we keep getting up. That's what this side is all about. We will keep on coming.
"We play a very structured and smart brand of footy, our fitness is a real strength and we'll be looking to test them for the whole match.
"We just can't wait to get out there."
The match will be broadcast live on the NRL Digital Pass and also shown on Channel 9.