After dominating every level in 2017, most notably at the Women’s Rugby World Cup, Kinross product Grace Hamilton has developed into one of the nation’s best back-rowers, but now she faces the challenge of living up to that reputation week-in, week-out when this year’s inaugural Super W competition kicks off.
Hamilton is one of several Wallaroos NSW coach Rob Baumann has named in his 30-strong squad for the round robin competition, which for the Waratahs kicks off on March 10 against Queensland.
Baumann released his squad on Monday night following a series of trials and then the inaugural Brisbane Global Rugby Tens last weekend, where Hamilton and NSW were heart-breakingly beaten in the final by the Reds.
A number of players who made their mark on the initial women’s National Rugby Championship competition, the Chikarovski Cup, will make their transition to the next level too.
“We’ve got a really good blend of experienced players and youth and I’m pretty excited for what lies ahead,” Baumann said.
We’ve got a really good blend of experienced players and youth and I’m pretty excited for what lies ahead.Waratahs coach Rob Baumann
“Everyone [came to trials] with a clean slate, everyone [had to] earn their spot. Through the addition of the women’s NRC, we were able to identify certain women who came to the trials and have now progressed to the provincial Super W level. The NRC provides a genuine pathway to this squad.
“I don’t want to give too much away about the pattern we’ll be playing but certainly the players will fit into the system well and provide us with what we need in certain areas … I hope we’ll give it a good shake.”
Baumann went on to laud the Super W concept, which is undeniably a gigantic step forward for the women’s game even though the announcement of the competition was fraught with controversy when it was revealed the players won’t be getting paid.
“It’s a great concept, it put a lot more professionalism into place for them ...it’s a great step forward for the women’s game and hopefully it keeps progressing from here,” Baumann said.
“One of the advantages that rugby union has over all other codes is that it has an established pathway. This really is the icing on a cake that has undertaken a lot of work to get to where it is today in the inordinate growth and success of women’s rugby in the last few years.
“It’s been capped off by a fully fledged Super W competition and we are 100% supportive of the growth of the women’s game in Australia.”
Hamilton and her NSW side went through the preliminary stage of last weekend’s inaugural Brisbane Global Rugby Tens undefeated, taking down Queensland (19-5), Melbourne (17-0) and then the ACT (22-0).
But they faced a very different Reds side in the final, one which ultimately triumphed in golden-point extra-time thanks to two astonishing plays from 17-year-old Alysia Lefau-Fakaosilea.
With the scores locked at 5-5 in the 27th minute, Lefau-Fakaosilea jammed NSW’s Olivia Grant in her own half, forcing the ball loose in as massive a hit as anyone – man or woman – produced during the tournament.
From the scrum, Reds five-eighth Zahara Temara went blind and linked with Lefau-Fakaosilea – who needed to get permission to miss school to play in the tournament – who sped away to break the deadlock and seal the title for Queensland.