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Kezie Apps was inspired to play rugby league after learning of Australia’s 2013 World Cup triumph in England and she now hopes to help the Jillaroos retain the trophy at Old Trafford next year.

With the global COVID-19 pandemic forcing the postponement of the World Cup until next year, RLWC2021 organisers have announced new dates and some venue changes for the tournament 12 months from the November 19 final.

The Jillaroos will face the Cook Islands on November 2, France on November 6  and New Zealand on November 10, with all three pool matches to play in York.

Both women’s semi-finals will also be played in York, where the Jillaroos are staying along with their three pool rivals and the New Zealand men’s team.

After defeating the Kiwi Ferns in the final of the 2013 and 2017 World Cups, the Jillaroos will be aiming to win a third consecutive tournament at Old Trafford on November 19.

“It is really, really exciting,” Apps said. “I have some goals and hopefully I can tick them all off next year to be over in England, playing footy and hopefully holding up that trophy again.”

The 30-year-old St George Illawarra and NSW captain grew up playing alongside NRL star Dale Finucane for the Bega Roosters but was forced to give the game away when she turned 11 years as girls were not permitted to play above that age.

Apps returned to league in 2014 after a television news bulletin of the Jillaroos winning the 2013 World Cup in England sparked an internet search for a club she could join, which happened to be 400km away in Helensburgh.

After winning selection for NSW and Australia in her debut season, the 2016 Dally M Medallist is now one of the biggest stars of the NRLW and a mainstay of the Jillaroos team, who are expected to be favourites for the World Cup.

“The pinnacle of our sport is to represent the Jillaroos and to play in a World Cup,” Apps said.

“That was my goal when I first started playing rugby league, so it is really exciting to know it is just around the corner.

"To play for Australia and to be in that environment is very special so I can’t wait to hopefully wear the colours and be a part of that special group at the end of the year.

“I have never been to England so it will be a great experience just to be picked in the side to go over with all the girls as well as to play in front of so many people.”

The Jillaroos last Test was a 28-8 defeat of New Zealand two years ago in Wollongong but NZRL CEO Greg Peters points out that the Kiwi Ferns won the 2019 World Cup 9s tournament and were the 2000, 2003 and 2008 World Cup winners.

Match Highlights: Jillaroos v Kiwi Ferns

“We’ve won it more than any other country so we would like to keep that record,” Peters said.

“It is really exciting, and there is a lot more focus and investment to provide the necessary the tools for the women to be successful on the international stage.

“With more opportunities for them in the NRLW and our own domestic Sky Sport Women’s Premiership that will lift the standard and provide a really competitive selection environment.”

This 2021 NRLW season was also postponed and there will be two competitions in 2022, with the first starting on February 27 and the second later in the year.

Jillaroos stars Talesha Quinn and Kezie Apps
Jillaroos stars Talesha Quinn and Kezie Apps ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

With the two NRLW seasons, State of Origin and the World Cup, 2022 is set to be the biggest year for women’s rugby league and Apps said the postponement of the tournament would ensure teams are better prepared than they would have been if it had been played now, as initially scheduled.

“For them to postpone it gives us another 12 months to prepare and to be ready,” Apps said.

“We haven’t been able to represent the Jillaroos since 2019 - that is a very long time for me, and I know it is for a lot of the girls, so it definitely makes you hungrier and makes you want it a lot more.

“There are a lot of things in between now and the World Cup, with all the girls playing in two NRLWs, state leagues and State of Origin,” Apps said. “The end of the year is when the World Cup is so I guess we just have play some good footy.”

“The Jillaroos staff will be in the background and we can lean on them when we need them.

"I know Bucko from the Jillaroos [elite performance manager Simon Buxton] will be talking to all the clubs to manage the girls to make sure that come World Cup time we are all fit and healthy and ready to go.”

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Women's Draw

Group A
Nov 1: England v Brazil at Headingley Stadium, Leeds
Nov 1: PNG v Canada at Headingley Stadium, Leeds
Nov 5: England v Canada at DW Stadium, Wigan
Nov 5: PNG v Brazil at MKM Stadium, Hull
Nov 9: Canada v Brazil at Headingley Stadium, Leeds
Nov 9: England v PNG at Headingley Stadium, Leeds

Group B
Nov 2: NZ v France at LNER Community Stadium, York
Nov 2: Australia v Cook Islands at LNER Community Stadium, York
Nov 6: NZ v Cook Islands at LNER Community Stadium, York
Nov 6: Australia v France at LNER Community Stadium, York
Nov 10: France v Cook Islands at LNER Community Stadium, York
Nov 10: Australia v NZ at LNER Community Stadium, York

Nov 14: Semi-Final 1 at LNER Community Stadium, York
Nov 14: Semi-Final 2 at LNER Community Stadium, York

Nov 19: Final at Old Trafford, Manchester

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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