New faces on show in big day for women's game
Ahead of the historic double-header opening Test match between the Harvey Norman Jillaroos and Kiwi Ferns, both coaches are excited to unveil some new faces while the players themselves are pumped to share top billing with the game streamed live on the NRL digital pass and shown on free-to-air television on Channel Nine.
Jillaroos coach Steve Folkes has a somewhat revamped side with an eye on next year's World Cup while Ferns coach Alan Jackson also has a couple of new faces.
New Jillaroos skipper Ruan Sims said the players are pumped for the chance to light up on the big stage.
"It's just so amazing that it's being touted as a double header. It's two countries playing for pride on Friday night and it's going to be great just to get out there and get amongst it," Sims said.
"The girls have been so excited and the vibe around the camp has been really positive and everybody wants to rip in. We can't wait for the game."
Folkes, who is handing Test debuts to Libby Cook-Black, Caitlyn Moran, Allana Ferguson and Corban McGregor, said a longer than usual preparation should benefit the team.
"We arrived on Friday and we have had maybe six or seven sessions which you sort of need because you don't get the girls in these situations very often," Folkes said.
"There's a really good vibe around camp. The debutants have slotted in really well. We have picked some younger girls as well to be a part of it because we're keeping the World Cup in mind. They have fitted in really well and they have been up to the mark with their talent."
Sims was also honoured to be named skipper in place of the injured Steph Hancock.
"When Folkesy asked me to be captain I was very, very humbled and honoured to be considered for the role considering the calibre of captains we have had in the past," Sims said.
"We have had a great lead-up with the girls. Even though we had to say goodbye to some of the extended squad on Sunday, the rest of the girls have rallied really well and we have been building on top of that."
Ferns skipper Sarina Fiso wasn't in the line-up when the Kiwis were edged out by the Jillaroos in the corresponding fixture last year and is hoping to reverse the result at Hunter Stadium on Friday night.
The Ferns will also hand debuts to Annetta Nuuausala, Mary-Jane Ale, Amber Kani, Molia-Fraser and Lanulangi Veaimu.
"It probably did hurt them [to lose last year]. I unfortunately wasn't a part of that game but we have a lot of excitement running through our girls and a lot of new faces," Fiso said.
"We have spent a lot of quality time together now so we can't wait to put it out on to the field. The young girls are really looking forward to it and a lot of people are flying over from New Zealand to see them make their debuts in the black jersey."
Like Sims, Fiso also expressed her excitement to be part of the occasion.
"It's only going to lift our profile back home," she said.
"We have increased our [participation] numbers already from the Nines alone and this is only going to bring more girls to the game which is something we need back home so it's very exciting."
Ferns coach Alan Jackson added: "We're really happy about being here.
"We're happy with our preparation and we have trained well. We went a little bit flat there during the Auckland Nines so we have done plenty of fitness there to correct that with the girls. They have come prepared and worked really hard on that so we're really confident about our fitness now and we're ready to rock and roll on Friday night."
The Jillaroos and Ferns kick off at 5.20pm ahead of the Kangaroos v Kiwis at 7.50pm.