Jillaroos retirees leave lasting legacy
The end is near for the playing careers of at least two Australian Jillaroos veterans but their legacy within the women's game is set to last a lifetime.
Queensland stalwarts Stephanie Hancock and Renae Kunst will go into Saturday's World Cup final against New Zealand preparing for a final match in green and gold after announcing their retirements prior to the tournament.
For all the money they've sacrificed over decade-long careers, it is the young players coming through who are set to benefit with the women's game reaching a wider audience with every fixture played.
Another experienced player, Ruan Sims – who has no intentions to follow her teammates and hang up the boots – believes those factors are why no-one in the squad takes their position for granted.
"We used to pay our own way, stay in scout halls, surf clubs – anywhere we could. We would self-fund," Sims said.
"Renae and Steph are the same, we have spent so much money, time with injuries and all the negatives that come with it.
"But the positives outweigh it. There was always something happening and I wanted to be a part of it.
"It's important to have those memories and respect what has happened before us.
"It helps keep us level-headed to see things we are getting now and opportunities – it didn't exist 10 years ago, it didn't exist five years ago."
Jillaroos coach Brad Donald has spoken openly about the selflessness within the camp and that statement will be made evident when seven players miss out from the 24-player squad to face the Kiwi Ferns.
No Jillaroo has played themselves out of a spot in the final team to be announced on Tuesday, but you can guarantee Hancock and Kunst will be the first two players pencilled in.
"Winning and sending them off in that style will be a product of everything we are doing now," Sims said.
"I'd love to be able to send them off in a winning way, but then again when we won back [in 2013] we weren't thinking about winning for [individuals].
"We're the first sport in the world to be crowning two world champions – male and female – on the same day. That's huge."
The Jillaroos now have all-time high levels of resources at their disposal, along with world-class facilities and the financial backing required to offer female players in Australia a pathway to play rugby league.
As a result, their performances have been a class above the minnow nations they came up against in the World Cup’s group stages.
For most of the Jillaroos players, it has been a long time coming.
The new-found attitude is evident in the ruthless mentality where players are angry at conceding a try in a 70-point win.
"The level of professionalism with this World Cup to the last one has changed dramatically," Sims said.
"I feel like we are really pushing forward."