STEPH HAN­COCK and RE­NAE KUNST are about to hang up their boots after en­joy­ing long and suc­cess­ful ca­reers in rugby league. They met for the first time 11 years ago and have played to­gether at club, state and na­tional level, and will farewell the game in t

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - - SPORT -

You two have had long and suc­cess­ful ca­reers to­gether. Can you re­mem­ber when you met for the first time?

RK: I do. I came in (to rugby league) after Steph. When I first started play­ing it was re­ally im­por­tant to me to know who the greats of the game were. Steph Han­cock was a name that res­onated through­out the fe­male game. To play along­side her (in the 2006 Queens­land cham­pi­onships), I was re­ally hon­oured. To fast-for­ward 11 years and now class her as one of my best mates, I’m truly hon­oured.

When did it turn into a real friend­ship?

RK: For me, it was in­stantly. Her good old coun­try de­meanour was some­thing I was im­me­di­ately drawn to.

SH: You just meet peo­ple and you know that they’re the peo­ple you want to have in your life for­ever. She’s al­ways had this pos­i­tive at­ti­tude and it just rubs off on ev­ery­one. She’ll be the first to tell you if you’re hav­ing a pretty good game or if there’s some­thing you can im­prove on. That’s what I love about Kun­sty, she’s hon­est. That’s why we’ve got such a good friend­ship. It hasn’t changed since 2006.

You two have been room­mates quite a lot as well when tour­ing. What’s that been like?

RK: It’s re­ally im­por­tant in that downtime that you’re with peo­ple you’re re­ally com­fort­able with. Don’t get me wrong, the team dy­nam­ics here are won­der­ful and ev­ery­one gets along re­ally well. But we still have to re­spect that there’s many dif­fer­ent age groups. There’s girls as young as 18 and us older girls (both 35). There is that gen­er­a­tion gap so it’s even more im­por­tant in your downtime that you’re with peo­ple of sim­i­lar de­meanours. When we’re all to­gether as a team, whether on the field or at team din­ners, you are mix­ing then and it makes for a bet­ter cul­ture.

SH: She learnt how to take a selfie be­fore PNG (in Septem­ber). She didn’t know you could turn your cam­era around to get the pic­ture.

RK: Yeah, you learn some­thing ev­ery day. Those Gen Ys, they fix me up with my phone all the time.

What’s the ca­reer high­light?

RK: Definitely the high­light for both of us was win­ning the 2013 World Cup. The Ki­wis were un­de­feated. To do that with the likes of (Karyn Mur­phy) and Nat Dwyer in their last year ... we sent them out as the cham­pi­ons they de­serve to be. We’ve had plenty of Queens­land wins too, but we don’t speak about the last two years.

SH: Win­ning 17 years in a row (for Queens­land), you wish peo­ple could have heard more about that un­til we lost, sadly. But go­ing back to the World Cup ... I re­mem­ber it was one minute 20 sec­onds left on the clock and it was 22-12 and Murph was about to pack the scrum. She was telling us to “get in, pack it” and I’m think­ing, “why are we rush­ing? We’ve got this.” I re­mem­ber look­ing at her and tears were run­ning down my face. That will be one thing I never for­get, that’s for sure.

RK: What about our grand fi­nal where we played against one an­other? My job for the grand fi­nal was to mark up on Steph (with Browns Plains Bears). Ba­si­cally when­ever she got the ball, I just had to be in her face. Lo and be­hold, that was also what Steph was told to do with re­gards to me (with Souths Lo­gan). After that grand fi­nal, I could not walk prop­erly for two weeks. It was an ab­so­lute bash-a-thon and it’s the sor­est I have ever been in my life.

SH: I couldn’t brush my hair. I couldn’t sit with­out it hurt­ing ev­ery bone in my body.

Who won?

SH: She did. When you both made the de­ci­sion to re­tire, did you talk about it with each other? SH: No, she called it straight up.

RK: I al­ways knew that the goal was to hope­fully make it to the World Cup. Then for me it was re­ally im­por­tant to go out of the game on my own terms. I know that un­for­tu­nately that hasn’t hap­pened for other girls but I think it’s al­ways good to go out of the game when you’re still play­ing well and that’s the legacy you leave.

So your de­ci­sion followed Re­nae’s, Steph?

SH: I still strug­gle say­ing it. I know that sounds ridicu­lous ... RK: No, it doesn’t. SH: But I haven’t re­ally spo­ken to any­one about it be­cause ev­ery­one says, “oh, you’re full of it, you’ve been re­tir­ing ev­ery year for the last 10 years”. It’s my 15th sea­son so just say­ing it is hard. I don’t know what life is like after footy and that’s what I’m re­ally strug­gling with al­ready. These are things I have lived and breathed for the last 15 years. I love it that much. It’ll hap­pen. It’s got to hap­pen. You both men­tioned the ca­reer high­light be­ing the 2013 World Cup and get­ting to send your re­tir­ing team­mates out on a high

note. What would it mean to have that hap­pen for you this year?

RK: While we know it’s about fo­cus­ing on each game that’s in front of you, it’s re­ally hard not to think about the fairy­tale end­ing as well. We’ve got a lot of work to do to get there but how good would it be to go out a win­ner? That’s an ab­so­lute fairy­tale and I just don’t think you can put that into words re­ally.

SH: To have the both of us stand­ing there on that stage hold­ing on to that sucker, that’s a fairy­tale.

BEST MATES: Jil­la­roos Re­nae Kunst (left) and Steph Han­cock have been through the highs and lows to­gether over the past 11 years. Pic­ture: NRL Pho­tos

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