Even though Parkes product Talesha Quinn wasn’t named on the starting side to play in the Women’s Rugby League World Cup decider on Saturday, she couldn’t be prouder of the Jillaroos’ campaign.
The 28-year-old is now a world champion after Brad Donald’s Jillaroos charged to a 23-16 victory defeating the Kiwi Ferns in the finale at Brisbane.
“I have worked all year for this day, all 24 of us have,” Quinn wrote on Instagram on Saturday.
“Even though I wasn’t chosen in the top 17, I’m still so proud of what I’ve achieved this year, so grateful for being given the opportunity to even be here.”
It was not until Donald watched Caitlin Moran’s field goal attempt sail between the sticks with 11 seconds left that he knew it was job done on Saturday.
The win capped off a brilliant 12 months for the former Bathurst Panther, as his Jillaroos outfit did not suffer defeat once in 2017.
There were nervous moments before Donald and the Jillaroos got to embrace each other, hoist the trophy and belt out the Jillaroos’ team song.
With just over 11 minutes to go Kiwi five-eighth Raecene McGregor crossed to put her side within reach at 22-16 and soon after Jillaroos fullback Nakia Davis-Welsh left the field injured.
But the defending champions held on.
“I normally go down to the sidelines when I think we’ve got the game won and I didn’t go down until she kicked the field goal. Then I was running through the stadium trying to find the quickest way onto the field,” Donald said.
“There was no point in that game where I thought we had it won until the end. It wasn’t pretty, but we got there.”
In the first half the Jillaroos scored first via Isabelle Kelly, but the Kiwis lifted. In the first 30 minutes the Ferns had a 93 per cent completion rate and were tackled 13 times inside Australia’s 20 metres.
Winger Honey Hireme crossed twice for the Kiwis to give them a 10-6 lead before Moran stepped her way over five out from the break and converted her effort to put the Jillaroos up 12-10.
“At half-time when we went in, when I got to the dressing sheds, it felt like the girls were behind. I said to them ‘You couldn’t have put together a scratchier performance, we looked really nervous and panicky, but we’re in front,” Donald said.
“That just showed all we needed to do was relax and we got the girls to lift their heads up and go out there and really enjoy that second half. They did and that’s when they skipped out to a bit more of a lead.
“We were just fortunate enough to hold them out in that last 10 minutes when they did put a fair bit of pressure on us. It was definitely tough.”
While Quinn and Orange product Vanessa Folikai didn’t have a run on Saturday, Donald said the work they did earlier in the tournament was critical to the Jillaroos' success.
“They played a role and played magnificently. Talesha played two full games and nearly a third full game in the semi-final," the coach said.
“Vanessa was the same.
“What that did was give us the chance to rest other players and I think that’s probably what saved us yesterday. Our squad was in much better condition than the Kiwis, who seemed to be picking their best team most games.
“Our girls were a bit fresher and fitter."
Full story on Quinn’s campaign coming soon.