1 ON 1: RENAE KUNST
THE JILLAROOS’ VETERAN SECOND-ROWER AND LEADERSHIP GROUPMEMBERSHARESHERTHOUGHTSONHOWTHE AUSTRALIAN WOMEN’S RUGBY LEAGUE TEAM IS SHAPING UP AHEAD OF THIS MONTH’S WORLD CUP.
You have a very important responsibility off the field as the NRL’s Regional Game Development Manager for north Queensland. That sounds like an exciting role …
The gist of it is to sell our game in a positive way and give kids a fun rugby league experience. I oversee a team of ten Game Development Officers (GDOs). It’s a relatively new role for me and requires a bit more travel than when I was a GDO, but I’m really lucky to have such a great team of officers working with me. Our job isn’t that different to playing the game, to be honest. It’s about working together as a team to create great outcomes for the people of north Queensland. What are your realistic expectations for the Jillaroos at the 2017 World Cup? Are you guys looking to totally dominate rather than merely win the tournament?
Oh look, I’ve never taken anything for granted in rugby league. I suppose that’s a good thing because it keeps everything real. We’re always looking to improve in every area, on the field or off. This journey for the Jillaroos began back in November last year when a new coaching staff, including coach Brad Donald, was appointed. The Jillaroos had a squad of 30 back then, which then became 40, and who now are all vying for a final-22 World Cup squad position. Heading into your third World Cup, what are some of the major changes you’ve witnessed among the Jillaroos’ playing style during your decade in the squad?
It would be insulting for me to compare the standard now to the standard of the game back when I first entered the Aussie team. My very first rep trip we actually funded ourselves; the women’s side of the sport certainly wasn’t in the place it is now. I see myself as the most fortunate girl in the current team for having played with the likes of former greats such as Karyn Murphy, Tahnee Norris and Veronica White to name a few. Now, I’m getting the opportunity to play with some future superstars; girls who are really flying that female rugby league flag. They’re such great ambassadors for our sport. What was the most pleasing aspect of the Jillaroos’ recent trip to PNG to take on the Orchids?
For PNG, it was the first match they had ever played as a team, so there were certainly some good indicators of their progress. Personally, when we were on-field we were really working hard, but then in my downtime I really embraced it. I know every day is a step closer towards me not playing anymore. I really embraced being back in a camp environment. I guess the biggest thing I got out of the week was … I just had so much fun leading into that game. Being in a new country – a country that’s so rugby league-mad – was so wonderful. You’re a second-rower, but what’s your personal role within the Jillaroos' set-up?
We obviously have our captain, but we also have a leadership team. It’s about the coaching staff and the seven players identified within the leadership group really driving the team forward. That in itself, I’m so fortunate to be a part of. Being one of the more experienced players, my personal role is about setting standards; making sure that if we have expectations placed on new people coming into the team, I’m certainly adhering to those 24/7 and really driving that and honing-in on the squad’s key messages. For me it’s about wanting to just play the game and be the best I can possibly be while benefitting the team and making sure I’m representing myself and my family well back home. Any opposition teams in particular which you’re steeling yourself for ahead of the Women’sRugbyLeagueWorldCup?
The hardest game I ever played was against England at the 2013 World Cup. They just don’t give up. For us they’re always the unknown; they’re all the way over on the other side of the world, just chipping away. So I expect that to be a tough match. There’s always that build-up around Australia and New Zealand, but for me it’s more intense against England. They’re just strong, powerful women. It’s quite a popular sport over there, women’s rugby league; they playing in sustainable competitions. They pull a few of them from rugby as well. They’re actually in our pool. It’s going to be a hell of a clash.”
“There’s always that build-up around Australia andNewZealand, but for me it’s moreintense against England. They’re just strong, powerful women.”