Ash Hewson was the hero for NSW in Friday’s Super W final, and it was the match-winning moment that sealed her decision to end her international career.
One of Australia’s most decorated Wallaroos, and a former international in soccer, athletics and cricket, Hewson slotted the winning three-pointer after a second extra-time period, sealing history for NSW and women’s XVs rugby in the inaugural Super W competition.
It was the epic nature of the match that crystallised the decision for Hewson to draw the curtains on her Wallaroos career, after 11 years of international rugby.
There’s no disillusionment from Hewson, and she can certainly still match it at the top level, but rather she felt it was time to give the game over to the next generation.
“To be honest, probably that win (sealed my decision),” she told RUGBY.com.au.
“I realised that the game's in really, really good hands and that competition I think week in, week out showed that.
To see the young girls coming through and for me to lead that group of women to the first Super W final was really special and to be honest with you I don't think you can beat that, so it was definitely it was definitely seeing the young talent coming through.”
Hewson will bow out of international rugby as the third most-capped Wallaroo of all time and Australia’s highest points-scorer, marks that show her prolific contribution to the sport.
Despite that, though, the 38-year-old feels in many ways indebted to the sport, rather than the other way around, still speaking with enthusiasm about the potential for women’s rugby.
“In any sport if you play it with love and passion which is exactly what women do,” she said.
“There is not much financial reward and I think that will come in the future and that all comes through development and getting corporate Australia behind us and after the spectacle of this inaugural season I can't imagine that they wouldn't want to.”
None of that, or her Super W hero moment, was anything she could have imagined as a sports-mad young girl with four brothers on NSW’s South Coast.
“You don't think about things like that when you're out in the back playing footy with no shoes on, so to be part of that at Allianz Stadium with that crowd and such a brutal amazing game of rugby is something that'll live in my soul forever,” she said.
Hewson will watch on as Australia plays an historic Bledisloe Cup double header in August, against the Black Ferns, the first home Wallaroos Test since 2008.
She was part of the 2016 trans-Tasman Test against the Black Ferns in Auckland, something she said was a ‘breathtaking’ moment.
Though she won’t don a Wallaroos jersey again, Hewson won’t be lost to rugby, still committed to the cause at Sydney Uni, and looking into furthering some coaching ambitions.
She will continue her full-time job as well, a welfare officer at Long Bay prison, working with intellectually disabled inmates.
“I think I'll be playing for Sydney Uni until they take me away in a coffin,” she laughed.
“Club rugby's something I really enjoy and it's with an amazing club and an amazing group of girls and I've met some of my best friends and people that are very special in my life through rugby.
“In terms of Super W, I'd love to be a part of it again next year.”
Hewson’s hope on retiring is that she was able to do for the emerging generation that players like Cheryl Soon, Debbie Hodgkinson and Alex Hargreaves were for her as she came through the ranks.
And teammate Grace Hamilton, one of the women tasked with taking the torch from Hewson, certainly believes her skipper is exactly that.
“I'm not even in the same position and she tells us what to do in forward packs, she knows every position on the field and she can help us get better in any way,” she said.
“She's so good for the younger generations coming through, she just wants everyone to get better and I have no doubt she'll be out there trying to help the game, so giving back to what she got so much out of.”
The Wallaroos take on the Black Ferns on Saturday August 18, kicking off at 5:30pm AEST. Buy tickets here.