Historic first professional Test a 'big deal' for Wallaroos

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Wallaroos will be playing on the biggest stage next week but there’ll be a small weight lifted off their shoulders for the first time.

Australia’s Test against New Zealand’s Black Ferns at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium will be their first home Test in a decade and the first for which they will receive $1000 match payments.

Wallaroos payments were among the additions to the most recent collective bargaining agreement signed in December and next week’s international is their first 2018 Test.

It’s not about the money for the Wallaroos - they’ve proved that over years of playing amateur rugby - but the luxury of focussing fully on rugby without as much financial pressure is a welcome one.

Wallaroos prop Emily Robinson said there was certainly an element of appreciation for something that might outwardly seem like a small step.

“I mean you don't do it for that but it is definitely nice to know you can pay your rent for the week and not have to worry about it,” Robinson said.

“It's a big deal and definitely a step in the right direction that we've been waiting for for a long time.

“There’s not really much talk about it but everyone's pretty happy (about it).”

With the extra incentive comes some extra expectation but Robinson said the Wallaroos were keen to prove they’re worth it.

“I think it's hard training as if you're a professional athlete and still working but everyone does it for the love of it but I think it's pretty obvious that we deserve it and it's worth your while,” she said.

“I think everyone will see next Saturday that it's not just an exhibition, it's women's rugby, it's awesome, it's just as good as the men's.

“We've put in just as much so I can't see any reason why it wouldn't keep moving forward.”

Robinson has been a pivotal member of the new wave of women’s XVs.

The front rower debuted at Auckland’s Eden Park in 2016, a 67-3 loss to the Black Ferns, when the team had mere days to prepare and train together.

“That was my debut, at Eden Park, it was amazing but it was also pretty horrific at the same time," Robinson recalls.

“I think the team has changed a fair bit with a few players retiring and having kids and stuff, (but) we definitely still carry the same legacy that those older girls have, pride in the jersey and never giving up.

“That will last forever - everyone understands what those people have done for us to be able to be in that position.”

A lot has shifted for the Wallaroos since then - the inception of a Super W competition and state-based Wallaroos camps has ensured that skills and training is monitored all year round.

Off the field, the spotlight has brightened on the Wallaroos and Robinson said the recognition and expectation had intensified quickly.

“I think there's been a lot more publicity around us (since then) and I think it doesn't so much put pressure on you but I think it probably makes you realise what big of a deal it is and makes people want to put in a hell of a lot to be able to wear the jersey and represent everyone.

“It's really good to be able to play in front of family and friends and they're the ones that tare there when you're emotionally a wreck and they're the ones on the end of phone calls.

“My sister's never seen me play for Australia and my two nephews (haven’t either) so this is the first time she'll get to see me so hopefully I get on the field and I can do them proud.

‘To be able to give back to all of those people that support us so much in our lives is really awesome so we can't wait to see them in the stands.”

The Wallaroos take on the Black Ferns at ANZ Stadium on Saturday August 18, kicking off at 5:15pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS. Buy tickets here.