Jillaroos hit by injury concerns
The Australian Jillaroos have suffered a blow in their preparation for Friday's Anzac Test against the Kiwi Ferns in Canberra with former skipper Steph Hancock ruled out with a knee injury and Brittany Breayley and Kody House also in doubt.
In camp on the Gold Coast since Thursday, the Jillaroos played Ipswich Brothers in a trial game at Burleigh's Pizzey Park on Saturday evening where coach Brad Donald used the entire 25-woman squad in a variety of positions across the four quarters.
But the major concern could be the subsequent injury toll. Hancock had worked extremely hard over the past six weeks to put herself in contention for selection, but given this is her final year in the game and with the Interstate Challenge and Rugby League World Cup still to come Donald and the Jillaroos coaching staff weren't prepared to risk her in Canberra after she picked up a knee injury.
Breayley had to go for an x-ray after suffering an ankle injury and House picked up a shoulder complaint but Donald is confident both will be close to full fitness come Friday, with Caitlin Moran the player most likely to replace Breayley in the No.9 jersey should the injury not respond.
"We were obviously a bit concerned having to take her to get x-rays on Saturday night but there was no break and she was up icing it every two hours so she should be right come Friday," Donald told NRL.com.
"It would be a big blow if Brittany wasn't able to play but Caitlin Moran can move in there if needed.
"Kody picked up a shoulder injury during the game but actually went back out there later so we don't think that's going to be too serious."
Donald and assistant coach Jamie Feeney were originally intending to cull the 25-strong squad from 25 to 17 on Sunday morning but due to the injury concerns will take 20 players into camp in Canberra on Monday morning.
Zahara Temara and Simone Smith started in the halves in Saturday's trial but Donald said both Maddie Studdon and Ali Brigginshaw could be in line for a late recall after impressing against Ipswich.
"We were really happy with how Maddie and Ali responded after not starting," Donald said.
"We gave all the players some time in a few different positions not only to see how they went and the combinations they formed but also to give them an appreciation of the positions their teammates play and being able to adapt in game situations."
As for what impact the loss of Hancock would have along with the unavailability of Dally M Female Player of Year Kezie Apps against a physical Kiwi Ferns team, Donald believes he has the forward depth to get the job done.
"When we had Ruan Sims and Heather Ballinger out there we were quite dominant through the middle and I've got no doubt the other girls in the squad will step up," he said.
"We've still got Renae Kunst there in the back row, we've moved Annette Brander from the centres into the back row, Simaima Taufu is an absolute gun along with Eliana Walton on the bench so I'm confident we'll be able to match them physically on Friday night."