Queensland prop Steph Hancock will lead the Jillaroos out at Eden Park next weekend when her side takes on the Kiwi Ferns in a three-match series as part of the Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines.
Coach Steve Folkes has named 14 players who were a part of November’s Test match against the Ferns in Wollongong and also included Kellye Hodges and Nikki Richards to make up a 16-woman squad.
Hancock, who made her debut as captain in Wollongong, will be joined by forwards Brittany Breayley, Heather Ballinger, Kezie Apps, Vanessa Folaiki, Ruan Sims, Nikki Richards, Julie Young and backs Sam Hammond, Karina Brown, Jenni-Sue Hoepper, Annette Brander, Ali Brigginshaw, Maddie Studdon, Kellye Hodges and the versatile Deanna Turner, giving Folkes’s squad strength and speed.
“It’s an honour to once again be selected to captain Australia in women’s Rugby League and we are extremely excited to be involved in this year’s Auckland Nines,” Hancock said.
“It is a fantastic opportunity for us to be able to play in front of up to 45,000 fans each day, something we have not done before.”
Folkes said his side were very much looking forward to the challenge of coming up against the Ferns who have the home ground advantage in Auckland.
“After a camp in Wollongong at the end of last year the team know each other well now. They put in some hard work and having that prior preparation should certainly help us,” Folkes said.
“These women have shown a lot of commitment to make themselves available for the Nines, they are excited and will no doubt put in their best performance.”
Jillaroos Nines squad: Sam Hammond, Karina Brown, Jenni-Sue Hoepper, Annette Brander, Deanna Turner, Ali Brigginshaw, Maddie Studdon, Steph Hancock (c), Brittany Breayley, Heather Ballinger, Kezie Apps, Vanessa Foliaki, Ruan Sims, Julie Young, Kellye Hodges, Nikki Richards. Coach: Steve Folkes.