RESPECTING the past and building for the future – for former Bathurst Panthers coach Brad Donald, the Women’s Rugby League World Cup was about more than the on field success.
Donald guided the Jillaroos to a 23-16 win over the Kiwi Ferns in Saturday’s decider in Brisbane – the match a landmark for the women’s game given it was the first time they had played their World Cup finale on the same day and at the same venue as the men.
It showed how far women’s rugby league has come over the years, but Donald said wanting to respecting the past was also an integral part of the Jillaroos’ campaign.
“When I took over as coach 12 months ago, one of the things the girls spoke about was really recognising the past. There was a foundation team in 1993 and the Jillaroos were formed in 1995, so we’ve had, over the last 12 months, we’ve had representatives of those teams and players from all the way through talk to us about their stories,” he said.
“There were team members who needed to sell their cars and had to cash in all of their leave and some of them lost their jobs because they took too much leave to play in the national colours and they had to pay a lot of money.
“The performance on Saturday, it may not have been the moist clinical of performances, but it just showed how much they wanted to play for everyone who had played in the past, all the family sacrifices that had been made.”
The women’s final showcased the sort of talent within the game, but Donald feels that introducing a national competition for female players in Australia should not be rushed.
“One of the things we need to see is that if we've got a national competition, people want to watch it and the girls have worked hard - like these girls have - to get there and earned their right to be a part of it,” Donald said.
“The girls understand the responsibility to make sure we don't just put 16 teams worth of women into NRL jumpers. There's girls like the ones that played today who have worked their backsides off to make sure they're strong enough, they don't get injured, they treat the game professionally.
“When the NRL figures out what the talent pool is like, then we'll be able to tell you how many teams are in the competition in the next couple of years.”