'I'm stoked he got to be there for it': Late father a motivation for Wallaroos captain

Super W
by Sarah Friend

She was referred to as "Amazing Grace" by Wallaroos coach Dwyane Nestor after scoring a Test hat-trick against Japan in Sydney but "amazing" is an understatement to how brave and courageous Grace Hamilton really was in 2019.

Amid captaining Australia in their four Tests against Japan and New Zealand, and helping the NSW Waratahs win their second Super W title, Hamilton was spending quality time with her father John, who died last month after a battle with cancer.

“This year was tough because I knew that dad wasn’t well and I knew we were going to go through that and I just wanted to play my best so he could see me do that,” Hamilton said.

“I know we talked about next year, playing rugby and he tells me what I should do and how I can be better so I just want to keep building that and building his legacy around rugby as well because he gave so much to that game and I just want to give as much as he did."

The former NSW Country Junior Rugby Union president was a towering figure in country rugby, who had a major influence in the game, including in establishing and developing sevens and girls' football in the central west of the state.

“He’s never lost, and he’s never forgotten, and he’ll always know I’m playing and I can’t wait for what’s to come.”

Deservedly, Hamilton was crowned the Buildcorp Wallaroos player of the year, fronting the Rugby Australia awards in Sydney just days after losing her father.

“It was pretty special," she said.

“That was a tough week for me but having my brother and sister there was just so lovely and it’s something I’m just so lucky to have, is that family support.

“They just support me in anything I want to do weather it’s rugby or off the field so that was really special for me it’s a testament to every single girl in that squad.”

The 27-year old is now focused on having another stellar season in the green and gold but before she gets too excited about the expanded Test Series Hamilton and the Waratahs have some unfinished business.

“For us we want to get that next level," she said.

“I don’t think that we hit our peak last year so we really want to step up our game and step up as individual players, but also as a team and play some good rugby so we can put a spectacle on and grow that support around Australia and around New South Wales.

 

“I think our team could have performed better and we came off the field knowing that. Even though we got the win we knew that we we’re better than that win.

“I think you learnt from a loss, but you also learnt from a win as well, so you’ve got to learn in every single area and that’s important for us leading into this season.”

While a good majority of the squad remains, the coaching ranks have changed with former assistant Campbell Aitken taking over the coaching duties from Matt Evrard.

The departure of former skipper Ash Hewson also leaves the door open for new leadership, something that Hamilton has cherished this year with the Wallaroos.

“It’s kind of something I haven’t really thought about yet,” Hamilton said.

“It’s the biggest privilege you can have I think within the sport so for me to do that and to lead Australia out was probably the best moment in my life and in playing career especially, so it’s opened a lot of doors for me and I’m so grateful for that.

“We just came back into pre-season so we’re just about getting the group together and I think just putting our best foot forward leading into the Super W season in February.

“Look, (Hewson) is a player that we will miss. She did a lot for us within our season but building into the future there’s so many girls coming through and I’ve never seen a squad this strong leading into the Super W.”

With so many exciting prospects to look forward to, it’s the back end of the calendar that sets it apart for Hamilton with seven confirmed Tests to be played against higher ranked opponents.

“Seven test matches, unheard of, and so excited,” Hamilton said.

 

“If the USA come over ... I’ve never really played the USA. I did start playing over there, so I’d love to play them, but I love a challenge and I love playing anyone.

“I love playing the Black Ferns because I think we can be better and better and the more exposed to that kind of level of rugby the better we’re going to get.

“We can compete, and we’ve got to compete for 80-minutes though, and that’s something we’ve got to build leading into next year.”

Australia is set to play in matches against the US, Canada, France and England with two more trans-Tasman showdowns against New Zealand.