Melbourne Rebels’ Super W Head Coach, Alana Thomas, says last week’s selection of four Rebels in the Wallaroos 2020 Training Squad, illustrates the phenomenal impact women’s community rugby is having across Victoria.
The announcement comes just days after World Rugby officially confirmed the 2021 World Cup pools, with the Wallaroos set to face reigning champions, New Zealand, along with Wales and the Final Qualification Tournament winner in Pool A.
Dwayne Nestor’s 32-player squad yesterday kicked off its six-day training camp at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra, as the Wallaroos begin preparations for the 2021 World Cup in New Zealand.
Melbourne’s Super W side were strongly represented in the new look squad, with hooker Ashley Marsters and lock Tiarah Minns, both making the cut, while Ashleigh Walker’s phenomenal year continues, with the Rebels’ star included as one of 16 debutants.
Although unable to attend this week’s camp, Georgia Cormick was also included in the national squad for a third consecutive year.
For Tiarah Minns, getting the opportunity to now rub shoulders with some of the Australia’s best women’s players was a dream come true.
“I have wanted to play for Australia for as long as I can remember, so to have the opportunity to be a part of the Wallaroos squad is honestly a dream come true,” said Minns.
Following a knee injury and multiple city lockdowns, Minns said last week’s selection was a great reward in what has ultimately been a challenging year for the Williamstown High School prodigy.
“It was a bit of a challenging season - from injuring my knee to lockdowns.
“But it’s also been a real blessing in many ways, as it gave me the chance to focus and work on areas of improvement such as gym work and ball skills.”
Speaking on her players selections, Thomas says their rise to National honours shows the tremendous impact grassroots rugby is having across the Victorian community.
“It shows all those young Victorians, you can play rugby here and achieve your dreams of playing at the highest level.
That is a massive thing for the next generation of rugby players,” said Thomas.
“The team and I are very excited for all four players - anytime you make a national squad it’s an honour and a privilege and one that’s made even more exciting as we move into a World Cup year.
The Rebels produced their strongest season in the club’s short history this year, headlined by a heart stopping, maiden Super W win in Round 4 against the Western Force W in Perth.
Thomas believes having such a large group of players gaining national level experience will pay dividends for her side, as the Rebels look to improve in season 2021.
“The experience and the coaching they receive is world class and these players will bring this back and share with their teammates.
“If you watch them train you can see they are on the way to being world class in their positions and this rubs off on those around them.”
Melbourne will be strongly represented at next year’s World Cup, with Thomas set to make her international coaching debut for Fiji in her side’s maiden World Cup campaign.
Facing the unusual prospect of coaching against her own players on World Rugby’s biggest stage, Thomas says it all comes with the nature of professional sport.
“There’s a possibility we could match up against the Wallaroos after the pool stages, which would be great. However, we may also get some games pre-World Cup as a part of Fiji’s preparations.
“It will be different coaching against them but that’s the world of high-performance Sport and I’m sure we will all be as competitive as ever to get the win no matter what the stage.”