Inside Sport - - CONTENTS - – JamesSmith

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.”

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