Wallaroos coach Dwayne Nestor has truly begun his side’s path to the 2021 Women’s World Cup with the announcement of an extended squad on Thursday.
The squad is one with the focus on 2021 as much as the immediate future, with Nestor including a host of injured players and some relative unknown players.
Brumbies no. 8 Tayla Stanford is one of a host of players who won’t be available for the immediate future but will almost certainly be part of their World Cup plans.
WA rookie Courtney Hodder, centre Sarah Riordan and Nareta Masters are others named in the wider squad who will be working their way back from injury.
“The PONI (Players of National Interest) squad is an ongoing squad,” he said.
“Even though Tayla’s been injured, she’s still part of the program and he had based that on her form, which was outstanding early on in the season especially.
“She’s earned the right to be in the squad and this is really an ongoing program looking to 2021 and when she’s back on the field, she’ll be better and stronger than before.”
Australia will play four Tests this year - two against Japan and two against New Zealand - before a new four nations competition kicks off in 2020.
With that expanded schedule, the need for more players to be in a semi-professional environment is heightened.
Nestor said the 47-player squad gave the national group a chance to give rising stars an opportunity to be exposed to those demands where they might not have in the past.
“It’s a big squad and that provides some opportunities for a few fil provide opportunities for a few girls who in normal circumstances might not have a chance to be exposed to that kind of environment,” he said.
“Waratahs winger Maya Stewart is one girl who is pretty raw and fresh to it all saw enough to say let’s put her in that environment and give her a chance to learn a lot more and develop”
Stewart, one of 15 uncapped players in the squad, is one of a handful of exciting Australian backs rising up the ranks in a department where the Wallaroos have arguably been light on in recent years.
Australia’s forwards proved their key strength in the 2017 Women’s World Cup but the growth of some young speedsters and the improvement of skills across the board excites Nestore as much as anything.
“Having been a back myself and knowing what it’s like playing in a team with a potent backline,” he said.
“I’m really excited for ‘21 if we have some of those young girls, that back line could be quite potent. That creates exciting rugby.
“We showed in 2017 that our forward pack if it gets the set piece right its ability in general play creates a lot of opportunities - players like Grace Hamilton, people like that being able to carry the ball and get good go forward light up the back line.”
The players will train in state-based groups for the next three months before convening in Newcastle ahead of their July 6 Test against Japan.
Australia takes on Japan in Newcastle on July 13 and at North Sydney Oval on July 19.
Millie Boyle, Bond University, Queensland Women
Emily Chancellor, Sydney University, NSW Waratahs Women
Rebecca Clough, Cottesloe, Western Australia
Toa (Dora) Filimoehala*, Sunnybank, Queensland Women
Grace Hamilton, Sydney University, NSW Waratahs Women
Alisha Hewett, GPS/ADFRU, Queensland Women
Evelyn Horomia, Western Sydney, NSW Waratahs Women
Fi Jones*, Sydney University, NSW Waratahs Women
Asoiva (Eva) Karpani*, NSW Waratahs Women
Michaela Leonard, Brumbies Women
Kiri Lingman, Sunnybank, Queensland Women
Ashley Marsters, Melbourne Rebels Women
Shannon Mato*, Sunnybank, Queensland Women
Michelle Milward, Vikings, Brumbies Women
Averyl Mitchell*, University of Queensland, Queensland Women
Sera Naiqama*, Sydney University, NSW Waratahs Women
Georgia O'Neill, Uni Norths, Brumbies Women
Liz Patu, Wests, Queensland Women
Emily Robinson, Warringah, NSW Waratahs Women
Christina Sekona*, Sunnybank, Queensland Women
Ana-Lise Sio, Western Sydney, NSW Waratahs Women
Tayla Stanford, Vikings, Brumbies Women
Violeta Tupuola, Vikings, Brumbies Women
Darryl Wickliffe, Kalamunda, Rugby WA Women
Katrina Barker, Newcastle, NSW Waratahs Women
Iliseva Batibasaga, Sydney University, NSW Waratahs Women
Mhicca Carter, Cottesloe, Rugby WA Women
Georgia Cormick*, Powerhouse, Melbourne Rebels Women
Lori Cramer*, University of Queensland, Queensland Women
Alana Elisaia*, Sunnybank, Queensland Women
Courtney Hodder*, Palmyra, Rugby WA Women
Zakiya Kereopa*, Nedlands, Western Australia
Atasi Lafai, Campbelltown, NSW Waratahs Women
Chloe Leaupepe, Warringah, NSW Waratahs Women
Alysia Lefau-Fakaosilea*, Sunnybank, Queensland Women
Crystal Maguire, Warringah, NSW Waratahs Women
Nareta Marsters, Sunnybank, Queensland Women
Cobie-Jane Morgan, Sunnybank, Queensland Women
Mahalia Murphy, Campbelltown, NSW Waratahs Women
Asako Ono*, University of Queensland, Queensland Women
Shanice Parker, Warringah, NSW Waratahs Women
Trilleen Pomare Kalamunda, Rugby WA Women
Sarah Riordan, Wests/ADFRU, Queensland Women
Maya Stewart*, Newcastle Waratahs, NSW Waratahs Women
Samantha Treherne, Sunnybank, Queensland Women
Samantha Wood*, Gungahlin Eagles, Brumbies Women