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Jillaroos Hero Swamped By Growing Fan-Base

Matt Buxton (Twitter: @MattBuxton22)

Womens RLWC Australia vs England at Southern Cross group Stadium  .Picture : NRL Photos / Gregg Porteous
Womens RLWC Australia vs England at Southern Cross group Stadium .Picture : NRL Photos / Gregg Porteous

It took the better part of 20 minutes for Jillaroos co-captain Ruan Sims to walk halfway across the concourse of Southern Cross Group Stadium.

Fans young and old, male and female, all wanted to get a photo or an autograph from Sims, and she was more than happy to accommodate every request.

Countless groups of young children – particularly young girls – sat in the seats and on the grass in front of the Monty Porter Stand to watch on a team of women they can call their heroes now that the women’s game is on centre stage for all to see.  

There are advertisements on bus shelters and billboards all across Sydney promoting the Women’s Rugby League World Cup, highlighting the exponential growth of the fastest-growing aspect within Rugby League.

“The crowd that came out to support our game was phenomenal this afternoon,” Sims says as she walks through the stadium to the sounds of cheers from whomever she passes.

“A lot of the young girls and even young boys are recognising us and really enjoying the women’s game.

“I think that just shows how much growth the game has had and the impact that the women’s game is having on Rugby League as a whole.”

 

On the walk with Sims from the western concourse to the Peter Burns Stand on the eastern side, fans can be seen taking photos with her English opponents along with her Australian teammates.

Women’s Rugby League is bigger than ever, and it shows when every member of the squad has a profile that fans can look up to, just like the men.

“The most pleasing part is that every one of the 24 Jillaroos is experiencing the similar thing, it’s not just one or two people,” Sims says.

“The players are getting more of a profile and it’s just phenomenal.

“The excitement that surrounds it, the energy that surrounds it and just how much people love watching women’s Rugby League, it’s amazing.”

Since the last Women’s World Cup in 2013, the Jillaroos are a different side in terms of professionalism, which is a major contributor to their ever-growing fame.

Coach Brad Donald, assistant coach Jamie Feeney along with their support staff deserve much of the credit for implementing a professional culture that does its best to replicate Mal Meninga’s Australian Kangaroos.

Sims was a part of that 2013 winning World Cup squad, and the professional upgrades are glaringly obvious to the players.

“We haven’t concentrated on one space we’ve made a concerted effort across the board I think the level of professionalism has gone through the roof,” Sims says.

“We’ve got a couple of full-time staff now, we’ve got two physio’s who travel with us which is amazing, we’ve got programs that are being written for us, we’re getting monitored on a daily basis, it’s really been massive.

“All of those things have really come together and it’s showing out on the park at the moment.

What Sims is referring to when she says ‘it’s showing out on the park’ is the Jillaroos dominance to start their World Cup campaign.

After just two games, they boast an aggregate score-line of 96-4 with big wins against the Cook Islands and England.

While the flourishing points are impressive and great to watch, the defence of the Jillaroos has been the point of difference between them and the other sides so far.

“Defence is all about attitude, and our girls keep showing the attitude every single game, they turn up for each other,” Sims says.

“To hold England – who are a very strong outfit – to nil, is absolutely amazing and to let only one try in against the Cook Islands was phenomenal because they were such a physical pack and a physical side.

“I didn’t play in the first game against the Cooks but the girls just defended admirably, and now we’ve just come back out [against England] and shown the depth the squad has.”