"Dream come true" for Hoy as high school mates reunite in gold

Wed, Oct 18, 2023, 3:00 AM
Lachlan Grey
by Lachlan Grey
Brianna Hoy (left) is set to make her Wallaroos debut against England alongside school and club mate Kaitlan Leaney. Picture: Supplied
Brianna Hoy (left) is set to make her Wallaroos debut against England alongside school and club mate Kaitlan Leaney. Picture: Supplied

When prop Brianna Hoy dons the gold jersey and sets her first lineout against England, she'll fulfil a high school dream forged with the player she'll be sending skyward.

Hoy and Wallaroos teammate Kaitlan Leaney are firm friends from their days at Coffs Harbour Snappers, where they first began dreaming of rugby at the highest level.

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  Having tasted success in clubland and with the Waratahs in Super W, Hoy and Leaney will now combine in the Wallaroos' starting side (at loosehead prop and number eight respectively) to tackle world number one England in Friday's WXV1 opener.

"It's pretty amazing, we were talking the other day and we came across a text message conversation of when we were in high school and we were like "wouldn't it be great one day to play for the Wallaroos or even to just play rugby on a regular basis," Hoy said on Wednesday.

"It's a pinch-me moment but I'm so thankful and I'm so excited for this opportunity. This morning there were lots of emotions going on - obviously excitement - a few nerves in there but definitely more excitement.

"I gave mum and dad a call before heading over to the gym after team selection. They were obviously very excited and I'm very fortunate they'll be coming over to watch the game as well as my younger sister."

Wallaroos coach Jay Tregonning said Hoy's naming (alongside potential debutants Sarah Dougherty and Desiree Miller) was warmly received by the playing squad and paid tribute to her improvements around set piece.

"It was probably one of the most energetic team announcements that we've had since the first test against Fiji last year - a bit of emotion there, a lot of excitement (with) the whole group getting around the debutants as well as Atasi coming back for her first game since injury last year," Tregonning said.

"Bri's been outstanding - she's standing in the room so I won't talk her up too much. Since arriving in the managed squad after Super W, we had a chat to her about what kept her out of selection towards the Fiji Test and that was mainly with regards to some of her set piece skill.

"That was a work on for her and she's worked extremely hard on that, obviously had the opportunity to play club rugby with Adi (Adiana Talakai) and Bridie (O'Gorman) and formed a pretty formidable front row in the Jack Scott Cup for Sydney Un.

"But she's also worked really hard on her technique and she's shown that through that time and being away with us for the Laurie O'Reilly squad.

"I've got no doubts she'll get on there and do the job that's required."

Hoy faces a baptism of fire against an experienced English front row unit boasting 142 caps but the 23-year-old says she'll be focusing on her own game and preparation.

"Being a front rower, it's mainly been coming down to scrum time and that's coming down to my own process and our process as a pack and a full eight, just building those connections."

One player she'll form a key connection with is Wallaroos skipper Michaela Leonard, who'll pack down behind Hoy as the loosehead lock.

"We've been doing a lot of work over the last few weeks on our set piece … we believe we can compete both in scrum and lineout," Leonard said during Wednesday's team announcement.

"I've said a few times over the last few months that we want to keep challenging ourselves to be the best in the world and to do that we need to compete with the best in the world.

"Getting the opportunity to play against England, France and Wales during this campaign is just going to help build on what we've learned the past few months against the Black Ferns and help put us in good stead to challenge those world standings and keep moving up those rankings.

"(We're) trying not to focus on (England) too much on them as individuals. Obviously they've got (Red Roses captain) Marlie Packer who's a massive threat in the backrow there whether it's ball-carrying or over the ball in defence and I was fortunate enough to play with Maisie Allen at the Chiefs, she's a young prospect coming through with a lot of talent there.

"But I look at our squad and see a whole lot of talent as well - we've got Emily Chancellor on 19 caps who's been playing for the Wallaroos for the last six years so we've been more focused on the strengths in our side … and working to shut down some of the strengths they'll bring."

The Wallaroos kick off against England in Wellington this Friday 20 October at 5pm AEDT. All WXV1 games will be broadcast live and on demand on Stan Sport.

Wallaroos team to play England at Sky Stadium, Wellington on Friday 20 October, 5:00pm AEDT
Starters
1.  Brianna Hoy - uncapped
2.  Tania Naden – 6 caps
3.  Eva Karpani – 17 caps
4.  Michaela Leonard (c) – 18 caps
5.  Annabelle Codey – 4 caps
6.  Siokapesi Palu – 3 caps
7.  Emily Chancellor – 19 caps
8.  Kaitlan Leaney – 11 caps
9.  Layne Morgan – 15 caps
10.  Carys Dallinger – 3 caps
11.  Ivania Wong – 8 caps
12.  Arabella McKenzie – 18 caps
13.  Georgina Friedrichs – 15 caps
14.  Maya Stewart – 5 caps
15.  Faitala Moleka – 2 caps
Finishers
16.  Adiana Talakai – 12 caps
17.  Bree-Anna Cheatham – 5 caps
18.  Emily Robinson – 21 caps
19.  Atasi Lafai – 6 caps
20.  Ashley Marsters – 23 caps
21.  Sarah Dougherty - uncapped
22.  Cecilia Smith – 8 caps
23.  Desiree Miller - uncapped

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