PAIR OF ACES HUNT A FAIRYTALE FINISH
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
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.
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