They are the “Three Sisters” of women’s rugby, the rock-solid pillars on which the Wallaroos will build their Rugby World Cup campaign in New Zealand next month.
Skipper Shannon Parry, backrower Emily Chancellor and center Georgina Friedrichs have all proven their immense value to the Australian side and are sure to draw plenty of attention in their opening match against hosts New Zealand on October 8 at Eden Park.
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The Chancellor is really hitting her stride at just the right time and trainer Jay Tregonning said she probably had her best game of the year when the spirited Wallaroos lost 22-14 to the Black Ferns in their last Test in Adelaide.
“She just made the habit of playing in a No. 6 jersey, not her traditional No. 7 jersey,” Tregonning said. “She showed an outstanding game in Adelaide.”
Her fellow backrower Parry continues to lead from the front and puts in a high performance every time she dons the Wallaroos sweater.
“It means that sometimes she doesn’t get the recognition she deserves. She always tops the tackle count and tackle percentage when it comes to not missing many,” Tregonning added.
“She’s always putting her body on the line, trying to get her body over the ball. And she gets away with training with bruises and scrapes.”
In the Back No. 13 Friedrichs, who likes to model her game after All Blacks legend Ma’a Nonu, was great and a powerful weapon for the Wallaroos.
Every time she gets her hands on the ball, there’s real anticipation that it’s going to spark something special in attack.
“Georgina has been a consistent performance for us in every friendlies this year and she’s definitely a leader in defence,” said the coach.
“She was one of the best in every test we played.”
He said all three are great leaders – and that only adds to their value in the team, especially under the pressure that will come from attending a Rugby World Cup.
The 32-man Wallaroos World Cup squad was also bolstered by two very good players from the Australian Sevens squad – up-and-coming speedster Bienne Terita and veteran Sharni Williams.
Terita proved she’s a real “X-factor” player when she made two tries on her Wallaroos debut on the wing against the Black Ferns in Adelaide.
She will certainly be kept in mind in New Zealand and has the potential to become one of the stars of the tournament.
“She was disappointed to be left out of the Commonwealth Games squad,” said Tregonning.
The 19-year-old has put in a lot of effort to make the transition to 15v15 play and it has paid off with a spot in the Aussie RWC squad.
“She was outstanding in sport, she just developed this tactical awareness and she worked really hard on that – a lot of homework, a lot of conversations with other players,” said the coach.
“She came out and took the opportunity in Adelaide.”
Terita’s first try was the culmination of a good team effort, but towards the end of the game it was a moment to savor as she showcased her individual talent.
“It showed a bit of athleticism, she broke a couple of tackles and rushed through to try. She definitely has the ability to change the game for us, she definitely has the ability to change the game for us,” said Tregonning.
“There’s this good youthful enthusiasm and it’s blended in really well with the girls.”
Center Williams’ experience will be a real asset, especially for the younger Wallaroos, having featured at three previous Rugby World Cups.
As Tregonning said, “She’s someone who will make a massive contribution on and off the pitch.”
The Wallaroos head into the RWC and get a big confidence boost from the performance against the Black Ferns in Adelaide, which marked a major reversal from their previous encounter in Christchurch as New Zealand won 52-5.
“Do a few things right and do a few things differently and the result is even closer,” Tregonning said.
Early in that game in Adelaide, the Wallaroos focused on winning the race on offense and defense and returning to a more physical approach. Something similar can be expected in New Zealand.
“The team is developing well,” said Tregonning. “Obviously the opening game against the Black Ferns at Eden Park is going to be a big event for everyone and I’m pretty sure it will be a sell out.
“With Scotland and Wales in our pool, our goal is to reach the quarter-finals and winning two of the three games guarantees that spot. After that, anything can happen.”
In the current world rankings, the All Blacks are second, the Wallaroos seventh, Wales ninth and Scotland 10. Just hours before Bledisloe’s first meeting in Melbourne, the Wallaroos had an important goal of their own as they played an internal game at the team’s training base at Bond University on the Gold Coast.
The achievements could prove very meaningful to any number of Cadre members.
“It will be players working hard to position themselves for selection in the first test of the World Cup,” Tregonning said ahead of the game.
“We’ve always said we want the training to be competitive and tough and the selection is based on what we’re doing in training.
“It’s also an opportunity for us to experiment a bit with playing positions and team composition.”
After camp concludes on Friday, players have a week to go home and reunite with their families before heading off on a long journey and enjoying the unforgettable experience of representing their country at a Rugby World Cup.