A six-try effort was tonight’s upbeat emergence from international isolation for the Wallaroos when they toppled Fijiana 36-19 at Suncorp Stadium.
The emotion of the national anthems was clear with tears, quivering lips and proud arm-in-arm renditions from both teams.
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It was 956 days since the Wallaroos last Test in 2019 and the sheer joy of being able to pull on the gold jersey was in every face.
Skipper Shannon Parry said the anthem moment was a powerful scene-setter. “When you are in that line of green and gold, you feel the tingling and the emotion,” Parry said.
“It’s something really special when you get to play in an Aussie jersey in front of a home crowd and even more so as a Brissy girl at Suncorp Stadium.
“Also, all the hard yards that have been put in by the group over the last two-and-a-half-years for no reward. You could tell in the faces of all the girls how much this meant to them.
“We had 11 debutants in the green and gold and it’s a very special moment.”
Head coach Jay Tregonning said those players who had attended Wallaroos camps and waited for debuts over the past three years were delighted.
“Sera (Naiqama) came up and thanked me for putting her on (from the bench) but all these women are so deserving. For 11 to debut and win, that’s terrific.
“There are lots of technical things we can improve on but I’m impressed for this to be the start.”
Tregonning said Queensland’s debutant Wong was indicative of the effort across the team with “her leg drive when cornered and always competing.”
The Wallaroos cleared the bench by full-time and bloodied 11 debutants in this first step to the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand in October-November.
There were positive signs from the Wallaroos and also plenty to work on.
The anthems must have been disorientating because Fijiana tried to start the game with 16 players until the referee waved one player to run off.
Fijiana went from 16 players to 14 within three minutes when fullback Roela Radiniyavuni was yellow carded.
She batted down an in-field pass from elusive Wallroos winger Ivania Wong, who had found some space and had a support positioned to dash over.
The 7-0 start from a penalty try was quickly levelled up at 7-all by the first of two close-range tries from powerful Fijian hooker Vika Matarugu.
The home side jumped to 12-7 with a determined try in the corner to winger Mahalia Murphy after crisp distribution inside through centre Pauline Piliae.
Murphy still had work to do but a little in-and-away beat one defender and she dotted down with another defender latched on.
It was a high for Murphy in her first game back at Suncorp Stadium since her one-off rugby league Test for Australia in 2015 when she scored a hat-trick.
The Wallaroos relished the smoothness of flyhalf Arabella McKenzie with her slick catch-and-pass skills and willingness to take on the line at the right moments.
Player-of-the-match Piliae was a standout and the mother-of-two from Sydney’s west will have delighted her two young sons when she speared over for a try midway through the first half off a McKenzie pass.
The Wallaroos had a clear 26-14 lead at half-time after experienced prop Liz Patu produced one of her pick-and-go specials with a spin move for a try.
The Fjiiana women threatened early in the second half and closed the scores to 26-19 with a sharp try to centre Talei Wilson.
Wong snatched back some momentum with a typically probing dash and step by four would-be tacklers.
Backrowers Grace Hamilton and Shannon Parry combined to force a relieving penalty at the tackle as well shortly after.
Captain Parry made a key call just after the hour mark by waving away a simple three points from a penalty shot. Instead, she pressured with a kick to touch which turned into a perfectly worked driving maul.
Replacement hooker Ashley Marsters powered over for the try, having already made her mark with several strong carries and tackles.
The final try was fitting reward for veteran Parry in front of her Brisbane family and friends.
Pacy centre Georgie Friedrichs made a slicing run. When felled, she popped a hopeful ball that Parry roped in with all the handling expertise we know she has as a 2016 Rio Olympics gold medallist at Sevens.
Wallaroos 36 (M Murphy, P Piliae, L Patu, A Marsters, S Parry tries; penalty try; L Cramer 2 conv) bt Fijiana 19 (V Matarugu 2, T Wilson tries; V Naikore 2 conv)
Half-time: 26-14 Wallaroos
WALLAROOS V FIJIANA TEAMS
Wallaroos (1-15): Liz Patu, Adiana Talakai, Bridie O'Gorman, Michaela Leonard, Kaitlan Leaney, Emily Chancellor, Shannon Parry (c), Grace Hamilton, Iliseva Batibasaga, Arabella McKenzie, Ivania Wong, Pauline Piliae, Georgina Friedrichs, Mahalia Murphy, Lori Cramer
Replacements: Ashley Marsters, Madison Schuck, Eva Karpani, Sera Naiqama, Piper Duck, Layne Morgan, Trilleen Pomare, Jemima McCalman
Fijiana (1-15): Joma Rubuti, Karalaini Naisewa, Vika Matarugu, Jade Coates, Merevesi Ofakimalino, Ema Adivitaloga, Emma Masi, Sereima Leweniqila (c), Rejieli Uluinayau, Luisa Yaranamua, Vitalina Naikore, Rachel Laqeretabua, Talei Wilson, Kolora Lomani, Roela Radiniyavuni
Replacements: Keleni Marawa, Mereoni Namositava, Ebony Satala, Akosita Ravato, Teresia Tinanivalu, Rusila Tamoi, Merewalesi Rokouono, Timaima Ravisa